Opinion » Viewpoint

"Highway Robbery"

The suspension of Halliburton's no-bid contract raises new questions.


Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a suspension of Halliburton's no-bid contract for oil services in Iraq. The announcement came after several weeks of pressure by House Democrats, who have led the charge to increase transparency regarding Halliburton's prices and contracting procedures. For months, Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell made inquiries to the Office of Management and Budget and other administration officials asking for information on Halliburton's prices. Their requests were met with silence.

Halliburton has been charging the American people more than double the cost of transporting fuel into Iraq. Not only have energy experts said that Halliburton's prices amount to "highway robbery," but the director of the Defense Energy Support Center, an office within the Pentagon, said that it looked as though Halliburton was charging "excessively high" prices. Reports released last week suggest that the Defense Energy Support Center can transport fuel into Iraq for less than half the amount that Halliburton has charged.

The corruption doesn't stop there. On Tuesday, House Republicans conveniently stripped the Iraqi supplemental bill of a provision that would hold corporations such as Halliburton accountable for war profiteering. As Halliburton was coming under fire for pricing schemes and war profiteering, House Republicans were protecting the company even before the full facts were put before American taxpayers.

Although Halliburton's contract for oil transportation to Iraq has been suspended, many questions remain unanswered:

• Why did the Department of Defense award a no-bid contract to Halliburton when its own Defense Energy Support Center could do the job for half the price?

• Why did the Bush administration ignore requests from members of Congress about Halliburton's pricing schemes?

• Why was Halliburton's no-bid contract extended and re-extended for this long?

• Why did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspend Halliburton's contract days after Congress stripped the Iraqi supplemental bill of a provision that would prosecute companies for war profiteering?

At a time when program funding is being slashed and state and local governments face the worst fiscal crisis since World War II, we can't afford to waste taxpayer money on corporate corruption. The American people don't mind sacrificing in times of national crisis. However, sacrificing their well-being for Halliburton's profits is going way too far. Congress should initiate an investigation of Halliburton's past overcharging to American taxpayers. Senator Joseph Lieberman was right when he said recently that Halliburton should have to pay the American people back for their overcharges.

Bracken Hendricks is the executive director of the Apollo Alliance for Good Jobs and Energy Independence. Skye Perryman is a policy fellow at the Institute for America's Future in Washington, D.C.

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