Saturday, March 03, 2007

Of Mice (and Mold and Cockroaches) and Men.

If you can get past the hideous irony of the US Army thinking that they could literally whitewash over the problems at Building 18, you’d still bend your nose walking into the realization that the Army bent over backwards (to the point of changing the costs of patient care to favor the bidders) to outsource patient care contracts to a former Halliburton executive named Al Neffgen who runs a band of fuckups called IAG Worldwide Services (which boasts, if you want to boast about such a thing, Dan Quayle on their board of directors). (3 page .PDF file)

Neffgen, you may or may not recall, was called to testify before Congress back in July of ’04 about Halliburton’s/KBR’s gouging the taxpayer to the tune of tens of millions in fuel distribution costs. IAG, you may also recall, was given a fat contract to deliver ice to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which was yet another job they completely fucked up.

If you feel like being outraged, read Congressman Henry Waxman’s letter to George W. Weightman (6 page .PDF file). I’m a political junkie who reads congressional reports and letters, especially if they’re written by my most righteous dude Waxman, like entertainment people read Variety. However, if you have an aversion to Congressionalese, let me break it down to the most damning and infuriating abstracts:

When IAG put in a bid to take over support operations for Walter Reed Hospital, the Army decided that the defense department could do the job more cheaply. IAG, their Republican sensibilities appalled and outraged, squealed at the injustice of being left out in the cold. The Army, on hearing their complaints, then raised their own bid by $7,000,000, thereby making it look by conspicuous relief as if the civilian contractor was putting in the lower bid!

When the people already doing the job at Walter Reed protested, they found that that the A-76 program that goes back to Al Gore prevented them from appealing the decision.

At the time the obligatory cost-plus contract was handed out to Neffgen’s cronies, there were 300 capable people on staff at Walter Reed facilitating outpatient care in a variety of support services. By the time IAG took over (less than a month ago or a year after they were awarded the $120,000,000 contract), only 60 remained. When IAG took over, they shitcanned the remaining 60 and replaced them with only 50 of their own unprepared people.

Bottom line: There are now 50 ill-trained and clueless people doing the work of 300, which begins to explain why male outpatients are getting gynecological records and otherwise have fallen through the cracks in the system.

So who does the Army punish? The wounded troops who dared seek catharsis and sympathy for their execrable plight by talking to the press (more on that in this weekend‘s Assclowns of the Week). True, they fired Weightman, then Army Secretary Fran Harvey himself got shitcanned by Defense Secretary Gates for replacing Weightman with a clown like Gen. Kiley, a guy who to this day blows off the charges of neglect as nothing to worry about. Kiley’s very temporary installment as Walter Reed’s chief showed that the Army, as with this massively indifferent administration, thinks defensively first and doing the right thing last.

Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, a former hematologist, is now the chief at Walter Reed, so kudos to Dr. Gates for firing Harvey (although that, too, could’ve been done for political expediency, a way of amputating the rot before it got to Gates’ office at the Pentagon. If Gates really wants to impress me, he could stop stonewalling and allow Weightman to answer Waxman's congressional subpeona to testify).

Although the shocking neglect of our troops is rightfully turning into one of the biggest Bush administration scandals and ought to remain on the front burner as a campaign issue (civilians aren’t the only ones in desperate need of adequate health care, it turns out), the Republican disease of outsourcing (or “privatizing”) has gotten so completely out of control, has corrupted the system so utterly and completely, that it threatens to undermine our very economic infrastructure.

Go back to the link on Dan Quayle’s name. Click on it, please. It’s an article originally published in the Washington Post in October 2005 about how corrupt the outsourcing trend has gotten. What was championed by Al Gore as a way for the private sector to compete with the Defense Department in a free market society has turned into a tiny clubhouse with a very few, very fat kids and the smaller kids are told in no uncertain terms that they’re not welcome.

Thank the Small Business Association for that, the one headed up, thanks to crony George Bush, by Steven Preston, a former executive at a large corporation who‘s been nothing but hostile toward small business. And thank Preston’s gang, also, for rewriting the rules and allowing corporations that employ 10,000 or more and boast over a billion in annual revenue to still qualify as small businesses so they can vulture contracts like the ones on the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.

Vice President Al Gore may or may not have had the right idea when he allowed private corporations to compete with the military for contracts. However, it didn’t require a crystal ball to predict that the Republican party would subvert this “free market competition” and turn it into a feeding trough for their buddies.

The Walter Reed Horror Show, especially in the now-closed down Building 18, just puts a new face on this trend that prizes cost plus, no-bid contracts and making of money, money, money and places competency at the bottom of their list of priorities. Whether it’s the complex and labor-intensive job of providing outpatient support services to hundreds of wounded soldiers, turning on the power in Baghdad, building clinics and hospitals in Iraq, feeding our troops and giving them potable water or merely delivering ice to flood victims, it’s a guaranteed given that if you hire a Republican-run company affiliated with the Bush administration, they can and will completely fuck everything up beyond all recognition.


So why do we continue standing for it, especially when even the troops who come back wounded and barely alive for protecting Halliburton’s stake in Iraq, are getting shortchanged and even being punished for speaking out about their ongoing victimization?

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