Despite electrocutions, a new contract
KBR faulted in soldiers' deaths
WASHINGTON - Defense contractor KBR Inc., which is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two US soldiers in Iraq, has been awarded a $35 million contract by the Pentagon to build an electrical distribution center and other projects there.
The announcement of the new KBR contract comes just months after the Pentagon, in strongly worded correspondence obtained by the Associated Press, rejected the company's explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements. A senior Pentagon official, David J. Graff, cited the company's "continuing quality deficiencies" and said KBR executives were "not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground."
"Many within DOD [the Department of Defense] have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR's ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq," wrote Graff, commander of the Defense Contract Management Agency, in a Sept. 30 letter.
Graff rejected the company's claims that it wasn't required to follow US electrical codes for its work on US military facilities in Iraq. KBR has said it would cost an extra $560 million to refurbish buildings in Iraq used by the US military, including Saddam Hussein's palaces, which among other problems are based on a 220-volt standard rather than the American 120-volt standard.
KBR announced last week it won a new $35.4 million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers to design and build a convoy support center at Camp Adder in southern Iraq. It will include a power plant, electrical distribution center, water purification, and distribution systems, wastewater and information systems and road paving.
Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called the new KBR contract inappropriate. Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he has formally asked the Corps of Engineers whether it was confident KBR could accomplish it.