Sunday, April 01, 2007

Walter Reed. Halliburton. Privatization.

The Washington Post reports that the Army was pressured by the White House to hire a Halliburton subsidiary to take over patient care at Walter Reed.
IAP is owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, an asset-management firm chaired by former Treasury secretary John W. Snow. The company is headed by two former high-ranking executives of KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root. Al Neffgen, IAP's chief executive, was chief operating officer for a KBR division before joining IAP in 2004. IAP's president, Dave Swindle, is a former KBR vice president. The company has worked at Walter Reed since 2003, providing housekeepers, computer analysts and clerks under a Treasury contract.
Swindle! And another name to keep in mind: Cheney, a name which has become synonymous with pressure, and Halliburton.
The scandal over treatment of outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has focused attention on the Army's decision to privatize the facilities support workforce at the hospital, a move commanders say left the building maintenance staff undermanned. Some Democratic lawmakers have questioned the decision to hire IAP Worldwide Services, a contractor with connections to the Bush administration and to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary. Last year, IAP won a $120 million contract to maintain and operate Walter Reed facilities.
Not because it would result in greater efficiency and savings.
The decision reversed a 2004 finding by the Army that it would be more cost-effective to keep the work in-house.
So more pressure was applied.
After IAP protested, Army auditors ruled that the cost estimates offered by in-house federal workers were too low. They had to submit a new bid, which added 23 employees and $16 million to their cost, according to the Army. Yesterday, the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal workers union, blamed pressure on the Army from the White House's Office of Management and Budget for the decision to privatize its civilian workforce.
Talk about micromanage! Talk about corruption!
"Left to its own devices, the Army would likely have suspended this privatization effort," John Gage, president of the organization, said in a statement. "However, the political pressure from OMB left Army officials with no choice but to go forward, even if that resulted in unsatisfactory care to the nation's veterans." The Army selected IAP for the five-year deal in January 2006, but IAP did not take over management until last month.
And the change resulted in patients getting even less attention, even less care.
During that period, the number of facilities management workers at Walter Reed dropped from about 180 to 100, and the hospital found it hard to hire replacements.
Who was forced to take the blame for the whole thing? Not Cheney. Not Swindle. The Army.
At a Fort Myer ceremony yesterday, the Army bade farewell to Secretary Francis J. Harvey, forced to resign over Walter Reed. Leaders, he said, must show "that they will be held personally accountable for their decisions."

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