Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Halliburton’

$85 million awarded to 12 Oregon soldiers; KBR guilty of negligence, not fraud

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 2, 2012

Oregon Live  November 2, 1012

A Portland jury found defense contractor KBR Inc. was negligent, but did not commit fraud against a dozen Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who sued the company for its conduct in Iraq nine years ago. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak announced the decision about 3:35 p.m. the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. Each soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.

“It’s a little bit of justice,” said Guard veteran Jason Arnold, moments after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon. Arnold was one of four of the soldier-plaintiffs in the courtroom was the verdict was read.

The verdict should send an important message to those who rely on military troops, he said.

“We’re not disposable,” said another soldier, Aaron St. Clair. “People are not going to make money from our blood.”

KBR’s lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison, said the company will appeal.

“We will appeal the jury’s incorrect verdict,” he said. “We believe the trial court should have dismissed the case before the trial.”

Harrison said the soldiers’ lawyers produced a medical expert, Dr. Arch Carson, who offered “unsupported, untested medical opinions” that each soldier had suffered invisible, cellular-level injuries as a result of their exposure to hexavalent chromium.

The verdict means the jury did not hear clear and convincing evidence that KBR intended to deceive the soldiers in the way it operated at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, near Basra, Iraq. But they did find that the company failed to meet its obligations in managing the work at the plant.

Friday’s verdict closes the first phase of a web of litigation between National Guard and British troops against KBR Inc., the defense contractor they accuse of knowingly exposing them in 2003 to a carcinogen at Qarmat Ali. KBR has denied the accusations.

In Oregon another set of Oregon soldiers are waiting in the wings for their day in court. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak and the attorneys agreed earlier to hold an initial trial with the first 12 soldiers, in order to keep the proceedings from becoming too unwieldy. A second trial, featuring all or some of the remaining 21 plaintiffs, could begin in federal court in Portland this winter.

Another lawsuit brought by Indiana soldiers against KBR is on hold in federal court in Texas, while an appeals court considers a jurisdictional issue.

The cases stem from the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Army Corps of Engineers hired KBR Inc. to run a massive program called Restore Iraqi Oil. The program involved dozens of sites throughout Iraq — sites that neither the Army nor KBR had visited before the invasion. The project was intended to quickly restore the flow of Iraq’s oil, partly to fund the war. The Pentagon remembered the way Saddam Hussein had lit the fields on fire during the first Gulf War, and feared a repeat in 2003.

Qarmat Ali was a compound where water was pumped underground to drive oil to the surface elsewhere. For decades, Iraqis had treated the water with sodium dichromate, an anticorrosion agent that contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. (Sodium dichromate is banned in the United States.)

Iraq’s Southern Oil Co. took delivery of sodium dichromate, an orange-yellow crystalline powder, in bags that were stored on site. Soldiers and others testified that the material was loose and drifting around the site, and had contaminated areas even outside the chemical injection building where it was added to the water.

How contaminated was it? Accounts differ. Even one of the plaintiffs in this case said he didn’t notice any soil discoloration. One of the British soldiers whose testimony was prerecorded said it was everywhere. Another Oregon soldier said it settled heavily on the clothing of the soldiers, who unwittingly carried it back to their camps over the border in Kuwait.

Much of KBR’s defense in the first Oregon trial focused on just how unlikely it was that any soldier — who visited the plant at durations from one day to 21 days — could have been exposed to dangerously high levels of sodium dichromate. But one of the most gripping portions of the testimony was when Oregon veteran Larry Roberta described eating a chicken patty that had been coated with the orange crystals, which he said immediately burned in his esophagus, causing him to vomit.

Roberta now is confined to a wheelchair and takes oxygen from a tank in his backpack. He had a history of gastrointestinal issues, but attributes much of his poor health to his time at Qarmat Ali.

Harrison, KBR’s lawyer, said the company “believes in the judicial process and respects the efforts and time of the jurors,” but believes the process that brought the case to conclusion Friday shouldn’t have been allowed to come so far.

“KBR did safe and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances,” he said in a brief, prepared statement. “We believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication.”

Soldier-plaintiff Arnold said the message of the verdict is unmistakable. He said service members are being exploited “to this day.”

Now, he said, “the voice will be out. There will be a lot more scrutiny.”

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Cancer, Chartis, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Iraq, KBR, Toxic Exposures, War Hazards Act | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iraq convoy was sent out despite threat

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 9, 2012

Unarmored trucks carrying needed supplies were ambushed, leaving six drivers dead. Records illuminate the fateful decision.

“Can anyone explain to me why we put civilians in the middle of known ambush sites?”

“Maybe we should put body bags on the packing list for our drivers.”

T Christian Miller The LA Times  September 3, 2007

Senior managers for defense contractor KBR overruled calls to halt supply operations in Iraq in the spring of 2004, ordering unarmored trucks into an active combat zone where six civilian drivers died in an ambush, according to newly available documents.

Company e-mails and other internal communications reveal that before KBR dispatched the convoy, a chorus of security advisors predicted an increase in roadside bombings and attacks on Iraq’s highways. They recommended suspension of convoys.

“[I] think we will get people injured or killed tomorrow,” warned KBR regional security chief George Seagle, citing “tons of intel.” But in an e-mail sent a day before the convoy was dispatched, he also acknowledged: “Big politics and contract issues involved.”

KBR was under intense pressure from the military to deliver on its multibillion-dollar contract to transport food, fuel and other vital supplies to U.S. soldiers. At Baghdad’s airport, a shortage of jet fuel threatened to ground some units.

After consulting with military commanders, KBR’s top managers decided to keep the convoys rolling. “If the [Army] pushes, then we push, too,” wrote an aide to Craig Peterson, KBR’s top official in Iraq.

The decision prompted a raging internal debate that is detailed in private KBR documents, some under court seal, that were reviewed by The Times.

One KBR management official threatened to resign when superiors ordered truckers to continue driving. “I cannot consciously sit back and allow unarmed civilians to get picked apart,” wrote Keith Richard, chief of the trucking operation.

Six American truck drivers and two U.S. soldiers were killed when the convoy rumbled into a five-mile gauntlet of weapons fire on April 9, 2004, making an emergency delivery of jet fuel to the airport. One soldier and a seventh trucker remain missing.

Recriminations began the same day.

“Can anyone explain to me why we put civilians in the middle of known ambush sites?” demanded one security advisor in an e-mail. “Maybe we should put body bags on the packing list for our drivers.”

Please read the entire story here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Contractors Kidnapped, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Department of Defense, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Injured Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Misjudgements, Political Watch, T Christian Miller | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Defense of Freedom Medal Held Hostage by The Defense Base Act

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 31, 2012

WHY HAVE I NOT RECEIVED THE DEFENSE OF FREEDOM MEDAL?

The Defense of Freedom Medal is an award held to be the equivalent of the Purple Heart and is awarded to Civilian Contractors injured in the war zones. 

One question we get here repeatedly is why have I not received the Defense of Freedom Medal?   The question comes from severely disabled Civilian Contractors wounded in horrific explosions and insurgent attacks.

WHO IS HOLDING YOUR MEDAL HOSTAGE?

The company you work for is responsible for requesting  that you receive the medal and providing the documentation that you have indeed suffered a qualifying injury.

As all Injured War Zone Contractors know the minute you must file a Defense Base Act Claim you are automatically placed in an adversarial relationship with your employer.   Your Employer and the Defense Base Act Insurance Company are considered equal entities in the battle you have entered for your medical care and indemnity.

Your Employer is required to assist the insurance company in denying your claim.  Under the War Hazards Act the Employer/Carrier must prove to the WHA Tribunal that they have diligently tried to deny your claim.

It appears that your Defense of Freedom Medals could be held hostage by your Employers due to the adversarial relationship the Defense Base Act has created.

When KBR, DynCorp, Blackwater, Xe, et al, provide documentation of your injuries to the DoD they have just admitted that you are indeed injured and to what extent.

Specific information regarding injury/death: Description of the situation causing the injury/death in detail to include the date, time, place, and scene of the incident, and official medical documentation of the employee’s injuries and treatment. The description must be well documented, including the names of witnesses and point of contact (POC) for additional medical information, if needed.

These admissions sure would make it hard for Administrative Law Judges like Paul C Johnson to name them as alleged.   ALJ Paul C Johnson has yet to award benefits to a DBA Claimant in a decision based on a hearing.

KBR who can never seem to find their injured employees medical records holds the key to the Defense of Freedom Medal.

Certainly there are other lawsuits outside of the DBA that the withholding of this information is vital too.

For those of you who still give a damn after being abused by so badly simply because you were injured-

The Defense of Freedom Medal may find you many years down the road once an Administrative Law Judge says you were injured.

We recommend that you contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and have them request this Medal if you qualify for it and would like to have it.

If you are still litigating your claim it SHOULD serve to legitimize your alleged injuries.

Posted in ACE, AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Chartis, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Defense of Freedom Medal, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Injured Contractors, KBR, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Political Watch, Racketeering, War Hazards Act, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Consequences of Pursuit of Profit: All Protected by DBA’s Exclusive Remedy at the expense of the US taxpayer

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 7, 2012

That dispute led to the under-equipment and under-preparation of the security team on which the four Blackwater employees died.   Their deaths led the military to launch an invasion of Fallujah.

So here it is: A contract dispute led to a major development in a major war of the United States – and that is Paul’s point.

David Isenberg at PMC Observer

Reduced to its essentials every argument and debate about the use of private military and security contractors comes down to two words; outsourcing and privatization. The argument is simply whether they are good and bad.
Personally I think that, like most other things, the answer is maybe. Hey, if you want absolutes take up physics.

But lately, partly I suppose, in response to the predictable quadrennial Republican party blather about the glories of the free market – cue the inevitable segue into why America needs a purported businessman like Mitt Romney to “fix America” – my repressed academic side has been pondering the pitfalls of privatizing the battlefield.

Before going any further let me acknowledge the contribution and sacrifice of PMSC personnel. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has so much depended on such an unacknowledged few.

That said, let’s turn to one of the iconic contractor moments of the U.S.involvement in Iraq; the killing of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in 2004.

Last year law professor Arthur J. Jacobson of Yeshiva University publishedan article in the  Cardozo Law Review.   The occasion was a symposium in honor of Paul R. Verkuil, who is on the Cardozolaw school faculty. Verkuil is author of the 2007 book Outsourcing Sovereignty: How Privatization of Government Functions Threatens Democracy And What We Can Do About It.

In his article, Outsourcing Incompetence: An Essay in Honor of Paul Verkuil Jacobson provides some detail regarding that tragic day that is not appreciated by the public.  I realize the following quote is long but it is necessary to appreciate the true impact of what happened.

The four Blackwater employees who were dismembered and mutilated in Fallujah, where they ended up while guarding a convoy, is a grim reminder of how the military must react to contractor actions. The Marines had to secure that city after that gruesome event, which was not in their plans beforehand.

Paul’s conclusion about the Fallujah incident is ineluctable. The Department of Defense, it appears, outsourced to Blackwater a task that it regarded as amenable to outsourcing, rather than as an inherent government function. Were the Department of Defense to offer a justification of this decision, they would argue that providing security to a supply convoy is akin to an ordinary civilian security operation – like night watchmen at a construction site or armed guards accompanying an armored car – and is thus distinguishable from combat, which, as most today would probably agree, is
an inherent government function.  But the reality of a theater in combat does not permit so fine a distinction to be drawn.  The Blackwater employees had necessarily to engage in combat, and their defeat drew the Marines into a combat operation they had neither desired nor planned. Contracting with Blackwater to provide security for convoys thus wound up diverting the United States military from operations they had in fact planned, and calling into question the competence of a military that could so unwittingly be the cause of its own distraction.

Paul’s Blackwater story is bad enough. The real story is worse. I asked Erik Wilson, a captain in the United States Marine Corps and a first-year law student at Cardozo, to look into the Fallujah incident a little more closely. Here is what he found.

The U.S. Army did not hire Blackwater directly. The prime contract, part of the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), was between the Army and Halliburton. It was a contract to supply Camp Ridgeway, an Army base near Fallujah.

Halliburton then subcontracted the supply contract to KBR, and KBR subcontracted it to ESS. It was ESS that hired Blackwater to provide security for the convoys to Camp Ridgeway. Four subcontracts connect, or separate, Blackwater from the ultimate recipient of its services. That looks like an awfully long chain of subcontracts. But things were not so simple.

Let’s start with the top of the chain. It was actually KBR’s predecessor, Brown & Root, and not Halliburton, that had the first LOGCAP contract with the Army. This was back in the 1990s, at the beginning of the LOGCAP program. In 2002, Halliburton created KBR (merging two of its subsidiaries, Brown & Root and M.W. Kellogg), and replaced the former Brown & Root as the prime contractor. Halliburton was thus the prime contractor at the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. The LOGCAP contract Halliburton signed at that point, known as LOGCAP III, was the second renegotiation of the initial LOGCAP contract between the Army and Brown & Root. Halliburton’s role under LOGCAP III was only to guarantee KBR’s services, and the Army and other federal auditing agencies dealt directly with KBR, not with Halliburton. Halliburton was involved in LOGCAP III only because it owned KBR. Thus, after Halliburton divested itself of KBR in 2007, KBR once again became the prime contractor in the LOGCAP IV contract, which is just now coming into
effect.

Now let us consider the bottom of the chain. ESS did not hire Blackwater directly. It hired Blackwater through a proxy company, Regency Hotel and Hospital Company of Kuwait. What happened was this: Regency and Blackwater had submitted a joint proposal to replace ESS’s existing private security contractor, Control Risks Group. Once Regency/Blackwater won the contract, they renegotiated it to make Regency ESS’s subcontractor and, in turn, make
Blackwater Regency’s subcontractor. Apparently Blackwater wanted this arrangement so it could get exclusive credit for the successful security operations.

The presence of Regency in the chain is important because a dispute erupted between Blackwater and Regency about the armoring of the vehicles to be used in protecting the convoys. According to Captain Wilson, Blackwater used its
subcontractor status to “blackmail” Regency, saying that Regency now had to provide weapons, armor, and other supplies, and that Blackwater would not supply them. The apparent aim of this strategy was to get Regency either to pay for Blackwater’s supplies or default on their contract, which Blackwater would try to take over at an increased profit once Regency was no longer in the way. Captain Wilson believes that Blackwater probably could not have gotten the security contract on its own and that it teamed with Regency for credibility, then tried to cut Regency out.

Partially as a result of this dispute between Regency and Blackwater over equipment funding, the Blackwater team was extremely underequipped and underprepared for the March 31, 2004, mission in which four Blackwater employees died.

I want to pause here in telling the story to make a comment. Outsourcing government tasks to a firm in the private economy subjects those tasks to the push and pull of the economy. I do not have the illusion, and neither does Paul, that elements of the bureaucracy are without their own motivations and distortions, but when you sign up with the private economy, you agree to participate in the private economy’s motivations and distortions. Let’s be blunt. There was a dispute between Regency and Blackwater over who would pay to armor the security for the convoys. That dispute led to the under-equipment and under-preparation of the security team on which the four Blackwater employees died. Their deaths led the military to launch an invasion of Fallujah. So here it is: A contract dispute led to a major development in a major war of the United States – and that is Paul’s point.

Please go to David’s blog and read the entire post

Posted in Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, KBR, Misjudgements, Political Watch, War Hazards Act | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Halliburton, KBR win appeal of Fisher vs Halliburton on Exclusive Remedy Clause of Defense Base Act

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 12, 2012

The Defense Base Act’s Exclusive Remedy “A License to Kill”

The Exclusive Remedy was intended to be trade off to keep injured contractors from having litigate with their employers when they are injured.  As it turns out the employers are off the hook and the injured contractors fight for years for medical care and lost wages from private insurance companies, AIG, CNA, ACE

AIG has fought the survivors and families of those killed like they were common criminals for the death, medical, and lost wages that were to be provided “forthwith”.

And don’t think something like couldn’t happen to you, your only one bomb or one sniper away.

Bloomberg  January 12, 2012

KBR Inc. (KBR) and its former corporate parent, Halliburton Co. (HAL), won’t face a jury on claims they sent unarmed civilian convoy drivers into an Iraqi battle zone in 2004, knowing the workers would be injured or killed, an appeals court ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans today ruled the drivers’ claims were blocked by the Defense Base Act, a U.S. law that shields military contractors from lawsuits. The drivers were attacked and injured because of their role in support operations for the U.S. Army, which is covered under that statute, the judges said.

“Coverage of an injury under the DBA precludes an employee from recovering from his employer,” even if the worker claims the company was “substantially certain” the injuries would occur, U.S. Circuit Judge Priscilla R. Owen said in a 30-page ruling by the panel.

KBR, a Houston-based government contractor, was sued in 2005 by the families of seven drivers killed while working inIraq for the largest U.S. military contractor. The company appealed a 2010 lower-court ruling that jurors could weigh the companies’ actions without second-guessing the actions of the Army.

Unarmed Civilians

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who presided over the case in Houston federal court, refused to dismiss Halliburton, which spun off KBR as a separate company in 2007. Miller had also ruled that the companies couldn’t name the military as a co-defendant in the lawsuits, so the Army wasn’t required to defend its actions.

The drivers and their families claimed KBR officials fraudulently recruited workers for safe jobs in Iraq and intentionally sent unarmed civilians into a recognized combat zone in April 2004. KBR’s military-supply contract gave company officials the right to refuse assignments deemed too dangerous for civilians, according to the complaints.

KBR and Halliburton argued that they weren’t liable because they couldn’t refuse Army orders to dispatch the fuel convoys under terms of their multibillion-dollar supply contract with the U.S. military. The convoys were attacked at a time when Iraqi insurgents were escalating the fight against U.S. troops that had taken over the country to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.

The case is Fisher v. Halliburton, 10-20202, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (New Orleans).

Posted in AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Exclusive Remedy, Follow the Money, Injured Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Political Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

KBR Settles Lawsuit Brought by Driver Injured in Iraq Convoy

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on January 10, 2012

Bloomberg  January 10, 2012

KBR Inc. (KBR) settled a lawsuit brought by an injured convoy driver who claimed the company sent civilians into a battle zone in Iraq in 2004 knowing they would be attacked and possibly killed, according to a court filing.

Reginald Cecil Lane, the injured driver, reached a“confidential settlement” with KBR and its former parent,Halliburton Co. (HAL), his lawyer Tommy Fibich said in court papers yesterday. Lane and the defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, according to the filing.

KBR, a Houston-based government contractor, was also sued by the families of seven drivers who were killed in Iraq. The company is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller in Houston allowing the suits to go forward. The other claims haven’t been settled, Scott Allen, a lawyer for the families, said today in a phone interview.

Sharon Bolen, a KBR spokeswoman, and Fibich didn’t immediately return calls or e-mails seeking comment on the settlement.

The case is Lane v. Halliburton, 06-CV-01971, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston)

Posted in AIG and CNA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Exclusive Remedy, Injured Contractors, Iraq | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Iraq veteran is cancer ‘timebomb’

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 21, 2011

Published on Thursday 21 July 2011 10:30 at Chad UK

AN Iraq War veteran from Skegby has spoken of his fear he may develop cancer as a result of the deadly chemicals he was exposed to while serving in Basra.

Cpl Jon Caunt (35) undertook five tours of Iraq between 2003 and 2007 when he and other members of the RAF Regiment were exposed to a distinctive orange powder at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant.

British troops, who were working alongside US forces and staff from private contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), did not know the orange powder was in fact Sodium Dichromate, which contains a cancer-causing compound.

It is banned in many countries and had been used to stop pipes rusting.

The soldiers were responsible for restoring the plant so Iraqi people could resume oil production in a bid to rebuild their economy after the war – but they had no protection from the chemical and would often sleep on the ground surrounded by it.

Cpl Caunt said: “You have got to understand that we were breathing it in, we were firing in it and it was blown up by the wind – this stuff was everywhere.”

It was only when he was later contacted by Sgt Andy Tosh and underwent a medical examination in April this year that he became aware of the serious threat the exposure had to his health.

He said: “Until I went for the medical, I did not realise how serious it was. When I got the results back, I did not want to look at them.”

Cpl Caunt’s medical revealed he already had the symptoms of several diseases, including respiratory, stomach and skin diseases.

“I have had skin complaints for a while, but I just dismissed it and never really thought anything of it until this came up,” he said.

“I am still fit because I am still serving but I lose my breath a lot more than I used to. There are quite a few of the RAF Regiment lads who are ill and it’s down to the exposure.”

Cpl Caunt fears he could be a ‘cancer time bomb’.

“It could be next year or it could be in 10 years – let’s hope it never happens,” he said. “But it’s a worry I have got to live with I’m afraid

Please read the entire article at Chad UK

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

S.C. veterans and contractors can proceed with lawsuit over Iraq, Afghanistan burn-pits

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 4, 2010

Alex Harley of Goose Creek was exposed to burn pits while serving as a defense contractor in Iraq and now is part of a class-action lawsuit.

More than a dozen South Carolina veterans and defense contractors who allege their exposure to noxious fumes from burning waste dumps in Iraq and Afghanistan led to grievous health issues may proceed with their class-action lawsuit, a U.S. District judge ruled recently.

The suit, filed in South Carolina in June 2009, is among 43 suits across the country that allege fumes from “burn pits” caused cancer, respiratory problems and other illnesses.

Alex Harley of Goose Creek is among the Palmetto State’s plaintiffs.

The 34-year-old father had a clean bill of health before leaving for work as a contractor in Iraq in 2006. Harley was exposed to what he called the “indescribably horrific” fumes during the course of his work and returned to the U.S. with myriad health problems.

“They check you out completely before they send you over there,” he said. “I was completely healthy before I went. Now, I can’t work. I can’t fish. I can’t play backyard football. I can’t do any of the things I used to do.”

Plaintiffs in the 43 cases say Texas-based defense contractors ignored the terms of their government contracts requiring them to safely dispose of waste, and instead burned everything from tires to human body parts in massive pits.

The Houston contractors, KBR Inc. and Halliburton Co., who received billions of dollars from the federal government, deny the allegations and involvement.  Please read the entire story here

Posted in Afghanistan, Burn Pits, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Injured Contractors, Interviews with Injured War Zone Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Burn Pits Claims Against KBR and Halliburton can Continue

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 9, 2010

To paraphrase Yogi Berra it’s déjà vu all over again for KBR.

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

In my Aug. 31 post I wrote about a significant pro-veteran ruling in the Oregon KBR Qarmat Ali litigation. This is the case where Oregon National Guard troops allege KBR’s liability for negligence and for fraud arising out of plaintiffs’ exposure to sodium dichromate and resultanthexavalent chromium poisoning while assigned to duty at the Qarmat Ali water plant in 2003.

Paul Papak, the federal district judge rejected the motion by KBR and co-defendants to dismiss the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and rejected it.

I noted that the end result was that the “we were just following orders” defense is looking even lamer than ever.

Now it turns out another judge, ruling on another KBR issue, its running of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, has ruled the same way. Sick soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan filed claims against the corporations because of “alleged failures of the military contractors to treat water and dispose of waste in a manner required” by their contract with the US military.

Today federal court judge Roger W. Titus ordered that claims against military contractors, KBR (Kellogg Brown and Root) and Halliburton, may proceed.

In his 41-page opinion Judge Titus dismissed the jurisdictions of the defendants and is allowing limited discovery to go forward. In its ruling the Court stated, “In tension with the exercise of caution supported by these legal defenses is the legitimate concern that the judiciary may prematurely close courtroom doors to soldiers and civilians injured from wartime logistical activities performed by hired hands allegedly acting contrary to military-defined strictures. Courts must be prepared to adjudicate cases that ultimately expose defense contractors to appropriate liability where it is demonstrated that they acted outside the parameters established by the military and, as a result, failed to exercise proper care in minimizing risk to service members and civilians.”

Please read the entire post here

Posted in Afghanistan, Burn Pits, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Injured Contractors, Iraq, KBR | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ms. Sparky aims at KBR, electrifies war-contractor scrutiny with blog

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 12, 2010

Debbie Crawford was playing with her grandson at her Battle Ground home two years ago when she heard a news report on a Green Beret who died in Baghdad. The water pump in his Army shower was not properly grounded, and when he turned the faucet, a jolt of electricity killed him.

Crawford cried, her worst professional fear realized. She went to her laptop and began to type:

“As a licensed electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq for two years, I find this UNACCEPTABLE!!!! How did this happen? Let me give you my opinion from first-hand experience….”

Five weeks later, after a Senate staffer saw her post, Crawford testified before Congress to poor management and poor workmanship by Kellogg, Brown & Root in Iraq, including subcontracting electrical work to locals not skilled to U.S. standards and failing to check electricians credentials.  Read the entire story here

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Dyncorp, KBR, Political Watch, Triple Canopy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Those fine upstanding Louisianna Judges

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 22, 2010

Updated

Judge Heavily Invested in BP and more

Follow the Money

We continue to follow our elected or appointed officials who value corporate greed, and in this case possibly personal greed as well,  over that of the lives under their jurisdiction.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans blocks Gulf offshore drilling moratorium

“The Less Than Honorable Feldman thinks it’s okay to play Russian Roulette with America’s shorelines. Methinks Feldman is bucking for a Supreme Court nomination.   He’s showing Big Oil he’s got the Right Stuff when it comes to making bullshit legal decisions.” here

Feldman’s financial disclosure report for 2008, the most recent available, shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or companies that invest in them, including Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon.

Feldman’s 2008 financial disclosure report  also showed investments in Ocean Energy, a Houston-based company, as well as Quicksilver Resources, Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy, Halliburton, Pengrowth Energy Trust, Atlas Energy Resources, Parker Drilling and others. Halliburton was also involved in the doomed Deepwater Horizon project.

Feldman is a native of St. Louis and former Army captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps who was appointed in May to a seven-year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to court records.

The court meets secretly to consider government requests for wiretaps in national security cases, such as those involving foreign terrorist groups.

The lawsuit was filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La., and company CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling he is looking forward to getting back to work.

Posted in Follow the Money, Misjudgements, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

U.S. Sues Kellogg, Brown & Root for Alleged False Claims Act Violations Over Improper Costs for Private Security In Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 1, 2010

WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United States has filed a lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root Services (KBR) alleging that the defense contractor violated the False Claims Act, the Justice Department announced today. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges that KBR knowingly included impermissible costs for private armed security in billings to the Army under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract. The LOGCAP III contract provides for civilian contractor logistical support, such as food services, transportation, laundry and mail, for military operations in Iraq.

The government’s lawsuit alleges that some 33 KBR subcontractors, as well as the company itself, used private armed security at various times during the 2003-2006 time period. KBR allegedly violated the LOGCAP III contract by failing to obtain Army authorization for arming subcontractors and by allowing the use of private security contractors who were not registered with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. The subcontractors using private security are alleged to have also violated subcontract terms requiring travel only in military convoys. The government’s lawsuit further alleges that at the time, KBR managers considered the use of private security unacceptable and were concerned that the Army would disallow any costs for such services. KBR nonetheless charged the United States for the costs of the unauthorized services.

“Defense contractors cannot ignore their contractual obligations to the military and pass along improper charges to the United States,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “We are committed to ensuring that the Department of Defense’s rules are enforced and that funds so vital to the war effort are not misused.”

This case is being brought as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community, and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies.

Along with the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Division and, FBI participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

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Suits over Iraqi convoy deaths delayed by ruling

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 26, 2010

HOUSTON — A federal judge on Thursday said most of the lawsuits filed over deadly ambushes that killed civilian truck drivers in Iraq can go to trial, saying it’s unclear if the military contractors being sued knew their workers would come under attack but still sent them into harm’s way.

But U.S. District Judge Gray Miller also delayed the cases, which were set for trial May 24, saying in a 41-page ruling that the companies being sued — Halliburton and a former subsidiary, KBR Inc. — could appeal his ruling. Miller did dismiss one lawsuit in the case.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said the company will appeal.

“We are pleased that the court completely dismissed one of the cases and acknowledged that none of the tragic injuries and deaths that occurred were intentionally caused by KBR,” she said.

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said because the “lawsuit is based on KBR activity in Iraq, we believe that Halliburton will be found to have no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the actions alleged.”

Scott Allen, an attorney representing several injured drivers and the families of others killed in the attacks, said he was both pleased and disappointed with the ruling.

“It clearly shows we have sufficient evidence and have a right to proceed but we are somewhat upset for our clients, that their trial may be delayed,” he said.

Read the full story here

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KBR Loses Bid to Throw Out Iraq Convoy Death Cases

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 25, 2010

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk

March 25 (Bloomberg) — KBR Inc., the largest U.S. military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost a bid to throw out claims it sent civilian drivers into a battle zone in Iraq in 2004, knowing they would be attacked and possibly killed.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller dismissed a lawsuit by an injured driver, while allowing claims by the families of seven drivers who were killed to proceed. Miller granted an immediate stay to KBR to appeal his ruling before a trial would be scheduled. Trial had been set for May in federal court in Houston.

KBR, and its former parent, Halliburton Co., urged Miller in November to dismiss the drivers’ claims on legal grounds, including some of the same arguments the judge used to throw out the cases once before in 2006. The cases were revived in 2008, after an appeals court rejected Miller’s ruling that they were too entangled with military decision-making to be tried during wartime.

“The defendants have not shown that as a matter of law that the event was both undesired and unexpected, making it a compensable injury,” Miller said of the claims brought on behalf of drivers killed or injured in two convoys sent out on April 9, 2004.

He dismissed the lawsuit by a driver injured the previous day, finding “the defendants were scrambling to react to attacks they feared, but did not expect.”

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for Houston-based KBR, said the company would have a response soon.

The cases include Fisher v. Halliburton, 05-CV-01731 and Lane v. Halliburton, 06-CV-01971, and Smith-Idol v. Halliburton, 06-CV-01168, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

Original here at Bloomberg

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KBR’s Idle Hands in Iraq

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 25, 2010

The megacontractor’s been making millions from mechanics who put in as little as 43 minutes a month. And as more GIs come home, the waste could get even worse.

By Adam Weinstein -Copy Editor – MotherJones.com
Thu Mar. 25, 2010 4:30 AM PDT

It was just a single contract for a single job on a single base in Iraq. The Department of Defense agreed to pay the megacontractor KBR $5 million a year to repair tactical vehicles, from Humvees to big rigs, at Joint Base Balad, a large airfield and supply center north of Baghdad. Yet according to a new Pentagon report [PDF], what the military got was as many as 144 civilian mechanics, each doing as little as 43 minutes of work a month, with virtually no oversight. The report, issued March 3 by the DOD’s inspector general, found that between late 2008 and mid-2009, KBR performed less than 7 percent of the work it was expected to do, but still got paid in full.

The $4.6 million blown on this particular contract is a relatively small loss considering that in 2009 alone, the government had a blanket deal worth $5 billion with KBR (formerly known as the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root). Just days before the Pentagon released the Balad report, KBR announced it had won a new $2.3 billion-plus, five-year Iraq contract. But the inspector general’s modest investigation offers new insight into just how little KBR delivers and how toothless the Pentagon is to prevent contractor waste. Moreover, the government’s own auditors predict that as the military draws down its forces in Iraq, KBR will keep most of its workforce intact, enabling it to collect $190 million or more in unnecessary expenses. Much of any “peace dividend” from the war’s gradual end—potentially hundreds of billions of dollars—could wind up in the hands of contractors.

On March 29, the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting—which Congress set up in early 2007 to investigate waste and corruption in the military private sector—will hold a hearing to examine whether contractors are doing their part to prepare for leaving Iraq. Some commissioners are raring for a showdown with KBR over its drawdown plan—or lack thereof. The commission’s co-chair, former Republican congressman Christopher H. Shays, said in a statement: “Considering that KBR was just awarded a task order—now under protest—that could bring them up to $2.3 billion in new [Iraq-related] revenues, it’s very important that we get a clear picture of the quality of planning and oversight during the Iraq drawdown.”

The Balad report is likely to be a hot potato at the hearing. Commissioner Charles Tiefer tells Mother Jones the report is a “dynamite critique” of the firm’s practices. “The numbers translate into an astonishingly large pool of KBR employees standing around idle and having the government be charged,” he says.

What the DOD investigators found in Balad was astounding. Army rules require that its civilian maintenance employees are actively working 85 to 90 percent of the time they are on the clock. Yet KBR’s own records showed that its workers were only engaged in labor an average of 6.6 percent of the time they were on duty. The DOD ran its own numbers, and its findings were even worse. In September 2008, for example, KBR had 144 maintenance employees at Balad, available to work 16,200 hours. Their actual “utilization rate” was a paltry 0.63 percent—which means that each of the 144 KBR employees averaged about 43 minutes of work for the entire month.

How did such a large bunch of thumb-twiddling mechanics go unnoticed? The Pentagon investigators found that the Army had no system in place to police how much work its contractors were actually doing. Plus, the unit in charge of KBR’s operation at Balad reported that the contractor wouldn’t reveal how many mechanics it employed there “because it believed the information was proprietary.” The investigators (who eventually got the KBR data) note that as of last August, the number of KBR mechanics at Balad has since dropped to 75, but they conclude diplomatically that “opportunities for additional reductions of tactical vehicle field maintenance services at [Balad] may exist, which may provide additional cost savings to DOD.” In other words, the Army should consider sending even more contractors home.

Some in the military appear to accept such waste as a matter of course. Col. Gust Pagonis, an assistant chief of staff for the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, which took over command of Balad last August, responded to the DOD inspector general by explaining that “the contracting of maintenance capabilities, though not efficient, was effective in ensuring units did not experience low readiness rates and being able to perform the mission.” Translation: The KBR contractors were essentially being kept around on reserve, just in case. Tiefer doesn’t buy that argument. “That might justify a limited overcapacity, but nothing approaching KBR’s levels,” he says.

As the military draws down its own numbers in Iraq, that “just in case” fleet shows few signs of going home. By this August, all US combat personnel are slated to be out of Iraq, leaving a force of about 50,000 “combat support” troops. Yet if the DOD’s own optimistic estimates are accurate, there will still be 75,000 contractors in Iraq at the end of summer—or 1.5 contractors for every soldier. KBR had 17,095 employees in Iraq as of last September, but when its subcontractors are included, it oversees as many as 58,000 workers. The firm has promised to reduce its staff in Iraq by 5 percent each quarter, but that may not be fast enough. Last November, April G. Stephenson, the then-head of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), testified to the contracting commission that KBR could cost the government another $193 million in unnecessary manpower between then and the August 2010 withdrawal date for combat forces. “When the military reduced its troop levels from 160,000 to 130,000—a 19 percent reduction—KBR’s staffing levels remained constant,” she told the commission, adding that KBR had so far refused to share “a detailed, written plan to reduce staffing levels in consonance with the military drawdown.”

She added that the $193 million estimate was “conservative”; if KBR fails to meet its withdrawal goals, the price tag could balloon by hundreds of millions more. “The drawdown in Iraq and these Iraq task orders are going to become a deep pocket for these contractors,” she told the panel. In light of the Balad report, Tiefer cautiously agrees. “If KBR has underutilized rates in many of its operations anywhere near the rates found by the inspector general study…that would support a search for savings on the order of $300 million,” he says.

KBR rejects those assertions. The company has “been working since last year with these organizations in responsibly planning our support to the drawdown of military forces in Iraq,” writes company spokeswoman Heather Browne in an email to Mother Jones.

Federal bean counters are concerned with more than just KBR’s inflated contracts. In fiscal 2009 alone, the DCAA identified $20.4 billion in questionable billing, and another $12.1 billion in unsupported cost estimates, by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, that’s more money than any individual handout to the biggest beneficiaries of the financial bailout.

In October, the Pentagon transferred Stephenson to its payroll department. That move came after the Government Accountability Office complained about auditing irregularities on Stephenson’s watch. GAO even alleged that some DCAA reports had been modified to favor contractors—which suggests that the companies’ waste in Iraq and Afghanistan may be even worse than already known. (Stephenson could not be reached for comment.) But even before her demotion, Stephenson’s agency had little leverage with contractors. All the DCAA can do is make recommendations to an alphabet soup of other Pentagon bureaucracies that routinely insist that contracts and regulations prevent them from playing hardball with contractors and their paychecks. At the November hearing, Shays, the co-chair of the contracting commission, chastised a Defense Contract Management Agency representative for failing to withhold any payments to contractors—even after the DCAA had expressed doubts about the amounts the contractors were charging. “It is simply outrageous that DCMA did not respond to DCAA’s findings and have any withholds,” Shays said. “And it was unfortunate that DCAA did not have a way to see that resolved.”

The DOD’s inertia on contractor accountability is so complete that its agencies can’t say with any certainty how many contractors are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. One April 2009 estimate put the number at 160,000; a separate DOD study a month earlier said it was 240,000. The dysfunction has angered some Iraq War hawks, like Shays and contracting commission member Dov Zakheim—a Bush-era undersecretary of defense who helped manage the war’s initial finances. Zakheim upbraided several Pentagon officials in that November hearing for not keeping contractors accountable. “We’ve been at war for eight years in Afghanistan, long enough for me to actually start forgetting about what it was like at the beginning, when I was there,” he said. “Eight years in Afghanistan, and we haven’t resolved something like this, which I would have thought is absolutely critical.”

But KBR will be in the hot seat at next week’s hearing—and on the heels of the Balad report, that seat’s now likely to be a lot hotter. “We’re hoping to find out at this hearing how much progress KBR has made toward a viable drawdown plan with realistic assumptions,” Tiefer says, adding: “I’m personally hoping to receive suggestions for how to reform monopoly cost-plus contracts like KBR’s.” Company spokeswoman Browne says KBR is ready to state its case, and is in the process of drafting a response to the inspector general’s report.

For now, however, it’s hard to see what the commission or the federal government can do to derail the KBR gravy train. Bases across Iraq remain dependent on the firm’s contractors, and that dependency is only likely to increase as more troops come home. “In essence…we basically said that KBR is too big to fail,” Shays said last May. “So we are still going to fund them.” (click HERE for the original

See this at MsSparkys with the commments

See also by Gordon Duff at Veterans Today

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