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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Griper Blade: Private Contractors Failing Just as Spectacularly in Afghanistan

Let's talk about how superior the private sector is to the public sector for a bit. We're going to hear a lot from Republicans about how government is evil and corrupt and incompetent, and how the private sector is the only entity that can really get things done -- and does it cheaper. The first problem here is that the math doesn't work at all. Let's say a project will cost X when all is said and done. You look at materials, labor, equipment you may need, gas, etc. and that's what you wind up with. A private contractor would need X + profit to get the job done. Government can do it for X, because it doesn't have to turn a profit. Last time I checked, X + anything is more than just X, so the idea that a private company can do the same thing for less doesn't really pan out, arithmetically. The only way you can pull this off is to subtract from X -- and that means skimping on something somewhere and winding up with a cheap piece of crap. Doubt it? Then explain why military personnel were being electrocuted in showers in Iraq or why they were served rotten meat.

In 2006, Business Week reported, "The losses to fraud and waste in Iraq are almost certainly in the billions, current and former government officials agree. The Special IG for Iraq Reconstruction says it has more than 80 open investigations and has referred 20 more cases to the Justice Dept. for prosecution. A spokesman for the criminal investigative arm of the Defense Dept. says that office expects a 'rise in referrals of potential fraud or corruption cases' because of the recent deployment to Iraq of additional Pentagon investigators and FBI agents."

Billions in waste and fraud, often covered by unfinished and unusable projects, doesn't really strike me as big savings. It strikes me as waste and fraud. The military used to do a lot of this stuff themselves -- do we really need to outsource mess halls and laundry duty, for example? -- but now it has, for reasons nobody seems to be very good at explaining, become completely impossible. The military can fire a long range missile straight down the chimney of some terrorist hide out with pin-point accuracy, but they couldn't possibly cook a damned hamburger...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

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