Monday, October 1, 2007

Blackwater's Day in The Sun

When modern historians talk about the last Republican Congress being one of the worst of all time, one of the hallmark shortcomings of those on the Hill had been their aversion to performing their Constitutional required duty of oversight. Like Papa Joe's BCDO, the Republicans in DC over the last few years had an affinity for no-bid contracts.

Erik Prince will be testifying before Congress on Tuesday. His company, Blackwater USA, is one of the largest recipients of no-bid contracts in Iraq. Over the last few weeks, a number of accusations have come out that have ranged from less than flattering to down right awful. In advance of the appearance, Rep. Henry Waxman's Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a damning memo of the company's performance.

This hearing and the spin around it will likely devolve into partisan bickering due to an ill-advised section on Mr. Prince's family. Had the memo simply focused on Blackwater's performance, the cost of Blackwater's contracts and their breach of contract issues should have inspired bi-partisan rage. Had the Republicans not abdicated their Constitutional duty of oversight, someone would have realized taxpayers have been getting a very raw deal.

From the Oversight and Government Reform Committee report:
One fundamental question that the recent controversy over Blackwater has raised is whether the government's heavy reliance on private military contractors is a wise use of taxpayer funds. According to contract documents obtained by the Committee, Blackwater bills the United States government $1,222 per day for one individual Protective Security Specialist. On an annual basis, this amounts to $445,891 per contractor.

These costs are significantly higher than the costs that would be incurred by the military. The security services provided by Blackwater would typically be performed by an Army Sergeant, whose salary, housing, and subsistence pay range from approximately $140 to $190 per day, depending on rank and years of service. On an annual basis, the salary, housing, and subsistence pay of an Army Sergeant ranges from $51,100 to $69,350 per year. The amount the government pays Blackwater for these same services is approximately six to nine times greater.
First off, this points to the fact we need to pay service people a lot more. Period.

Second, it makes it a little difficult for Republicans to claim the fiscal responsibility mantle when the contracts to one company are costing taxpayers 643% more than what it should. Republicans didn't hold one hearing about it. Then you have the fact Blackwater billed a profit markup on their profit margins and you have the taxpayer really being taken for a ride.

This is reminiscent of the toilet seats costing thousands of dollars and hammers costing hundreds in the 1980's. The fact these contracts are adding to the cost of the war cannot be ignored, as we are having to borrow ever more money from foreign sources to pay for this debacle.

The fact this practice went unchallenged by the Republicans, including our own Representative Scott Garrett, really has to make one wonder how any of them could ever refer to themselves as a fiscal conservative without being disingenuous.

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