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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
It just keeps coming...
From the Politico:
Congressional inquiries into conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are taking a political turn as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, investigates whether high-profile Republicans used their influence to help a firm win a private maintenance contract.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Treasury Secretary John Snow and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all have some connection to the firm, IAP Worldwide Services. The company's board is also populated with former top military officials.

IAP won the maintenance contract after a protracted competition with a group of former federal civil service employees who also bid for the work that was targeted for privatization during the Clinton administration.

In an interview, Kaptur said IAP's corporate connections "look like a Republican parking lot. Was the outsourcing a matter of favoritism with people with the right connections?"
Drip ...drip ... drip...

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posted by JReid @ 11:44 AM  
Saturday, March 10, 2007
The downside of plunder
The real estate market is in a world of hurt, as the free borrowing that fueled the supposed Bush real estate boom is looking more like the dot com bubble of old. It's being felt in the private housing market, but also in the high end real estate market, with a Nicki Hilton controversy thrown in to boot. Not a good look.

Meanwhile, the Walter Reed privatization scandal expands, as it becomes increasingly clear that the rush to privatize military veteran care nearly destroyed the jewel in the Army's crown, and even led to the kind of bribery and contract grubbing that you saw with the CIA and Department of Defense in the Dusty Foggo scandal, which of course, also involved members of Congress. From the Boston Globe:
GREENBELT, Md. --A man has pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a kickback scheme involving contracts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

According to the plea agreement, from June 1999 to March 2002, Krachyna and an unnamed accomplice conspired to give kickbacks to a civilian contract specialist employed by the Army Medical Command. The unnamed official was responsible for procurement for the medical center.

The official helped Krachyna and his business partner secure government contracts worth as much as $1.4 million in exchange for a 10 percent cut, according to the plea agreement. Krachyna admitted paying the public official $10,000 to $30,000, according to the document.
So the contract to IAG Worldwide, a company whose directors include former KBR executives and former Treasury Secretary John Snow, meant that cleaning and facilities maintenance went to toadies who couldn't do the job, and other contractors came running for some of the gristle from the Bush table.

Way to spur an economic boom: plunder, theft, bribery and fraud, plus irrational exuberance and questionable lending processes. Only under Republicans.

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posted by JReid @ 7:17 PM  
Monday, March 05, 2007
How privatization ruined Walter Reed
Since the Washington Post broke the Walter Reed hospital scandal last week, journalists, politicians and regular Joes have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how on earth the military's premier medical facility -- the jewel in the crown for the care of our uniformed military (before Rummy slated it for closure a couple of years ago...) came to be symbolic of America's failure to take care of our wounded troops (here's CNN's coverage of today's hearings on Capitol Hill). Well, maybe it's time to stop scratching, because an old, familiar tune is starting to sound throughout Washington. It's called, the "f***d by privatization" rag. From the March 3rd edition of the Army Times:
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday.

... Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed privatization of services at Walter Reed could put “patient care services… at risk of mission failure.”

But Army officials refused to allow Weightman to appear before the committee after he was relieved of command.

“The Army was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the decision to prevent General Weightman from testifying,” committee members said in a statement today.

The committee wants to learn more about a letter written in September by Garrison Commander Peter Garibaldi to Weightman.

The memorandum “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel,’” the committee’s letter states. “According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”

The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.

They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.
What's more:
The letter said the Defense Department “systemically” tried to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for facilities management, patient care and guard duty – a process that began in 2000.

“But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under President Bush’s ‘competitive sourcing’ initiative, which was launched in 2002,” the letter states.

During the year between awarding the contract to IAP and when the company started, “skilled government workers apparently began leaving Walter Reed in droves,” the letter states. “The memorandum also indicates that officials at the highest levels of Walter Reed and the U.S. Army Medical Command were informed about the dangers of privatization, but appeared to do little to prevent them.”

The memo signed by Garibaldi requests more federal employees because the hospital mission had grown “significantly” during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It states that medical command did not concur with their request for more people.

“Without favorable consideration of these requests,” Garibaldi wrote, “[Walter Reed Army Medical Center] Base Operations and patient care services are at risk of mission failure.”
Mission failure, achieved.

So was Walter Reed done in by privatization? The DNC has already smelled blood in the water, particularly as the VA scandal begins to widen. Here's what Camp Dean had to say today:
“It’s an unconscionable disgrace that after serving so bravely in Iraq our troops would be subjected to these abysmal conditions and treated so callously when they needed care. The President's stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq has sent troops into battle without proper lifesaving equipment or training, and the incompetent mismanagement has put their lives and well being at risk when they come home. The Administration's outsourcing agenda has disgracefully put politics ahead of quality care for our troops and veterans. Democrats are committed to getting to the bottom of this tragedy and will make sure our troops have every resource available from deployment to when they return.”
Oh, no, not that ... I mean the good stuff:
IAP Involved in Katrina Ice Fiasco. Separately, the Pentagon's inspector general is auditing an Army Corps of Engineers contract used to provide ice after Hurricane Katrina and is examining another to install temporary roofs on homes after the disaster. The ice contract with IAP Worldwide Services Inc., based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., came under scrutiny after reports emerged that the Corps of Engineers ordered twice as much ice as it needed in the days after the disaster. Millions of pounds of ice were sent to storage, some as far away as Maine. [Washington Post, 11/17/2005]

IAP Run by Former Halliburton Executives. IAP, which is based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., has more than $1 billion a year in revenue and more than 5,000 employees around the world, according to the company's Web site. It is owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private asset management firm. The firm has grown exponentially in recent years in part because of contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It recently recruited high-ranking Halliburton Co. official Al Neffgen to be its chief executive. IAP's President is Dave Swindle. Prior to IAP, Swindle was Vice President, Business Acquisition and National Security Programs and an Officer for Kellogg Brown and Root. In this capacity, he was responsible for the Government and Infrastructure Division's Business Development Operations for KBR Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe-Africa, and the Middle East. [IAP Website, Accessed 3/5/2007; Washington Post, 10/20/2005]

IAS Chief Executive Defended Iraq Gas Price Gouging. According to Rep. Waxman's Letter, IAS "is led by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official who testified before our Committee in July 2004 in defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery and troop support in Iraq." [Waxman Letter to Maj. Gen. George Weightman, 3/2/2007
yeah, that, straight from the DNC daily press missive today. And wouldn't you know there'd be a Florida connection? IAS' web-site boasts of its contracts with federal and state government agencies, principally the Pentagon.

Want more? Here's video from late last week from CNN, courtesy of C&L.

And here's the Army Times' Walter Reed scandal coverage roundup.

Also, the NYT tracks the blog coverage. Here's a sample:
Some conservative blogs expressed no surprise at the report today about problems at both military- and Veterans Administration-run facilities. After all, they’re run by the government, they argue. David Bernstein writes in The Volokh Conspiracy, “If private companies had mismanaged outpatient care for veterans the way the V.A. system has, there would be strong calls from all the usual quarters for a government takeover, and proclamations of how we can’t trust ‘greedy’ for-profit companies to take care of veterans.”
er... Mr. Volokh... Walter Reed's outpatient care was privatized, and people ARE saying that its mismanagement proves you can't trust greedy, for-profit companies to take care of veterans ... moving on!
But the liberal blogosphere, fueled by research in the blog Raw Story and an opinion column today by The Times’s Paul Krugman, flipped the argument on its head, at least when it comes to Walter Reed (which, again, is not run by the V.A.). [Emphasis added] Apparently, a company called IAP Worldwide Services had a large contract to help run the Washington military hospital.

“Chalk the declining conditions at the military hospitals up as another victory in the GOP passion for contracting out government services,” writes Matthew Yglesias in his blog.
Sorry righties, on this one, you lose.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin manages to miss the story, too. La Malkin asks:
Will the Bush-bashers join with free-market critics to effect real change and help the troops who need and deserve better care?
Again, my dear, Walter Reed was a textbook example of the kind of free market privatization you prefer in action ... and earth to Malkin: it sucks.

Note: tomorrow, we're going to have Sgt. 1st Class Drew Brown of IAVA on the radio show to talk about the woes of VA healthcare, which, by the way, apparently sucks too. And more on how contracting allows the government -- and both political parties -- to reward former Pentagon alumni here. Read all the way to the bottom for a special appearance by one Robert Gates.

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posted by JReid @ 6:34 PM  
Friday, March 02, 2007
Let them eat Starbucks
The two star general in charge of Walter Reed has been relieved of duty.

Meanwhile, the Army is denying reports in the Army Times that it is gagging soldiers and preventing the media from entering its facilities. Army spokesman Paul Boyce had a creative answer to a query by ThinkP:

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Army spokesman Paul Boyce insisted that the Army Times report is inaccurate, and that injured vets are “free to exercise their First Amendment right” and speak with the media. But upon further questioning, Boyce acknowledged that if patients at Walter Reed wanted to speak to reporters inside the hospital, they must first receive approval from the hospital’s press relations office.

What if reporters want to speak to a reporter without getting approval from a PR office? “They can go to Starbucks,” Boyce said. Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. “It’s just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.”
Well, the cinnamon lattes ARE outstanding...

Boyce repeatedly justified the restrictions on patients’ activities by citing the fact that Walter Reed hospital is a “government building.” ThinkProgress contacted several legal analysts and none of them could explain why this would justify media restrictions.
Well you know ... roaches and mold don't make good P.R.

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posted by JReid @ 7:04 AM  
Thursday, March 01, 2007
They knew

The WashPost leads with this sobering story about who knew what, and when, about the mistreatment of injured U.S. troops at Walter Reed medical center:

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."

"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.
And there's this:

Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." He also said they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families."

But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers' lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders' "sensing sessions" in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general's reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.

Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."

Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."

In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.

Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."

Meanwhile, the Army is still clamping down on soldiers' freedom of speech.

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posted by JReid @ 8:02 AM  
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Military intelligence
You kind of figured that a few too many die-hard fans of the show "24" have begun to mistake the fictional Fox show for "war on terror" reality, didn't you? Well, guess what? Thrown into interrogations without any rules or Geneva restrictions, guess what confused, frustrated U.S. troops turned to when trying to extract information from Iraqi and other detainees?

And speaking of the so-called "war on terror," when will it end, daddy? Oh, right around the time of the 2008 election, dear... just in time to help out the ailing GOP...

In the meantime, how do you keep things like bad publicity over piss poor treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans from sinking the GWOT P.R. flotilla? Why, you shut up the soldiers, of course! From the Army Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Not appropriate, indeed.

Anyway, we wouldn't want the press hyping up those tens of thousands of vets who insist on darkening the doors of the VA system for those silly dental problems... now, would we? Oops, did I say "dental problems?" Sorry, I was quoting a disingenuous Bush administration official. What I mean to say was "catastrophic brain injuries..."

So while we're on the subject of the military and war, just how the hell are things going with that "surge" in Iraq, pray tell? Says the Guardian:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.
The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.

By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.

The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are:
· Insufficent numbers of troops on the ground
· A "disintegrating" international coalition
· An anticipated upsurge in violence in the south as the British leave
· Morale problems as casualties rise
· A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad

"The scene is very tense. They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis," the former senior administration official said. "But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."
And why do we STILL not have enough troops in the theater? ThinkP:
Top U.S. intelligence officials yesterday disclosed to the Senate “that the deployment of Iraqi forces into Baghdad under President Bush’s new plan to stabilize Iraq is running behind schedule and that all of the units sent so far have arrived under strength, some by more than half.“
Nice job, Dubya.

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posted by JReid @ 4:00 PM  
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Around the world and to hell in a handbasket
What's going on inside the NRCC? Taking money from terrorists now, are we?

The latest tumult in Iraq? The rape of Baghdad ... and the latest blow to the credibility of the Maliki government. Oh, and the security crackdown isn't working.

A U.S. appeals court rules that Gitmo detainees cannot challenge their detentions.

A U.S. admiral ramps up the salty language on Iran... while the government in Tehran continues to talk tough.

The Army says it's fixing the embarassing, shocking problems at Walter Reed's Building 18 (and apparently, other buildings and facilities as well), while Tony Snow says, hey man, don't ask me, ask the boys across the river.

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posted by JReid @ 6:14 PM  
Monday, February 19, 2007
The shameful treatment of our veterans
... the Congress, the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be ashamed. Unfortunately, most of the aforementioned appear to be incapable of shame.

Update: But wait ... there's more. Courtesy of ThinkProgress and Americablog (who has apparently moved on from the Snickers episode to more pressing matters):
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks other cases of disgraceful treatment toward veterans.
Well you know, an amputee Iraq war veteran wouldn't exactly be good p.r. for the president or the war... nasty reminder of the downside, you know...

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posted by JReid @ 9:08 PM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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