Case of the Disappearing Article

By Vicky Davis

March 3, 2007



Yesterday, March 2, 2007, the Washington Post had a rather lengthy article on the scandal of outpatient care at Walter Reed.  It was a three-page article titled, “Bush Orders Review of Service Members Care” written by William Branigin. 


In the article it stated that the man in charge at the point the scandal broke was Major General George W. Weightman.  He had only held the command for six months.  He was fired by Lt. General Kevin C. Kiley, the man who held the position for two years prior to Gen. Weightman’s assignment.   In other words, Maj. General Weightman was set up to be the goat - to take the fall. 


Today, after settling in to write a commentary about the article and Major Gen. Weightman, naturally, I tried to bring up the article from the Washington Post website, but curiously, a different article came up.  Rather than “Bush Orders Review of Service Members Care”, the link pulled up the article, “Army Secretary Ousted”.


Being a programmer, that sort of thing sets me into debug mode.  Debugging computer programs involves testing to find patterns in the errors so that the problem can be precisely identified and fixed.   I found the problem fairly easily.  Somebody scrambled the indexes (unique identifiers) on the Washington Post’s News database. 


Now who would want that to happen and why?   Simple, logical deductive reasoning points to the military contracting agency and the contractors they are hiring to perform services for the government. 


How is it that I have the audacity to point the finger without conclusive proof, you say?  In the mysteriously disappearing article, “Bush Orders Review of Service Members Care”, it identifies IAP as being the facilities manager for Walter Reed’s outpatient facility and it notes that IAP - which is actually IAP Worldwide Services of Cape Canaveral, Fla. was also the contractor who was hired to deliver ice to the victims of hurricane Katrina.    This information came from a letter Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent to General Weightman.  More important than that however is that the root cause of the problem was identified.  On page 2 of Waxman’s letter, it states the following:  



“It appears that over the past six years, the Defense Department has been engaged in a systematic effort to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for a host of functions, including facilities management, patient care, and even guard post duty entrance.  This effort occurred under the A-76 process, which is shorthand for OMB Circular A-76.


The A-76 process was an element of Vice President Gore’s reinventing government initiative.  The idea behind A-76 is to force federal employees to compete with the private sector for the jobs being performed by federal employees. 


The process of considering Walter Reed for A-76 competitions began in 2000.  But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under President Bush’s “competitive sourcing” initiative which was launched in 2002.  According to OMB, the goal of President Bush’s competitive sourcing initiative was to allow the private sector to compete for nearly half of all federal jobs.”



So what’s the problem with contracting out federal jobs to the private sector contractors?  After all, corporations do things better and cheaper right?   WRONG!   If a corporation is producing a product for sale, they will do it as cheaply as possible to maximize profits.  The proof is that all manufacturing is being moved to China because a Communist slave labor workforce can produce products far more cheaply than they can be produced in the United States. 


When a corporation contracts for a service however, maximum profit is achieved by bloating charges to the contract, adding paperwork requirements, reducing costs by reducing services and in general - gumming up the works - especially when they “own” the function as in the case of a facilities management contract.  The case of IAP and the traveling ice is classic: 


“Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. The ice would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it never would be delivered.”

After a day and a half in Montgomery, he was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. On Sept. 8, he was waved onward to Selma, Ala. And he was redirected two days later to Emporia, Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following similarly circuitous routes.


Kostinec sat for an entire week at Emporia, his trailer burning fuel around the clock to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally purchased for Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. In the end, only three of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said. So Kostinec on Sept. 17 headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.


"I dragged that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Kostinec said. He was pleased to earn $4,500, double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's apparent bungling.


Why wasn’t it delivered?   Because IAP made more money driving it around than they did by delivering it.


“Under the contract, the government pays about $12,000 for a 20-ton truckload of ice, delivered to its original destination. If the ice is moved farther, the price is $2.60 a mile, and a day of waiting costs up to $900, Holland said.”


Was this just a contract snafu?   Don’t get me started on this…. There are no mistakes when dealing with this kind of money.  There are only corrupt government contracting officials and contract marketing people.   And apologies and “Lessons Learned” doesn’t cut it.  The only “Lesson Learned” should be that everybody gets the ax when things like this happen.   The fact that the contractors are never barred from government contracts and it keeps happening over and over and over again reveals the extent of the corruption of government. 



Reinventing Government - Circular OMB A-76


The real problem here stems back to Al Gore and his ‘reinventing’ government initiative.  Setting up federal employees to compete with the private sector for their jobs was a strategic move to dismantle the government - to make way for a “market-based” governing structure - succinctly, a fascist takeover of government. 


Federal employees can’t compete with the private sector.  They are governed by the civil service system.  When services by federal employees are costed, their rates for services include the embedded facilities and overhead charges like pension and medical insurance.  Their competition in the private sector has the ability to low ball the first bid to get the contract and then raise the prices sky high after they ‘own’ the function.  This isn’t even Contracting 101, it’s more like the remedial course for dummies. 


Sometime back, I read something in which the author said something to the effect, “the real power to govern is in the hands of government employees”.  And that is the truth.  Under a market-based (fascist) form of government, that power is transferred to the private sector corporations whose primary goal is profit.   In effect, it turns government into a corporation for profit - with citizens transformed into expendable slaves for the corporation. 


This “transformation” away from the American form of government, has been obvious as corporations lobby to replace the American people in our labor market with cheap imported replacements for maximum profit.   With a ‘market-based’ government, you get ‘market-based’ propaganda - marketing of what they want you to think - rather than what is true.   “Buy my snake oil and your problems will be over”.  


In the U.S. today, the snake oil is “shortages of programmers, doctors, teachers, accountants, nurses, lawyers, engineers, motel maids, kitchen help - name the job and there are “shortages”.    Several years ago, I even heard Clay Johnson of the OMB say there was a “shortage” of government workers.  Corporate propaganda is why there is such a credibility gap between what government officials say about our economy and what we - the American people know to be true of the American economy.  Our economy is failing while government officials claim the economy is booming.  It's because of the corporate control over the non-glamorous, but critically important, administrative functions of government.   


Who is it that doesn’t understand that in order to solidify the power of government that private corporations now have, they must disempower and eliminate American citizens as a factor?    And by extension, who is it that doesn’t understand that in order to retain that control, the American military must also be replaced with corporate employees?    And that’s the answer to the question of what we are doing in Iraq.  We’re eliminating American government employees - American soldiers  -  so they can be replaced with private contract mercenaries.  And, if you think a little more, you should also be able to understand what happened on September 11, 2001 and everything else that has occurred in our country since then. 


So you see, outpatient care at Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg and the Washington Post not only shined a light on it, they set fire to it and the whole treacherous, treasonous scheme is about to meltdown - as long as we continue to apply the heat.   


And the best for last, I just happened to have copied the entire Washington Post article, "Bush Orders Review of Service Members Care" for my files so the scrambling of the Washington Posts story indexes did nothing except to give me the best opening possible for the commentary I intended to write.





More Info:


Privatizing War
How affairs of state are outsourced to corporations beyond public control.

By Ken Silverstein
The Nation, July 28, 1997


With little public knowledge or debate, the government has been dispatching private companies -- most of them with tight links to the Pentagon and staffed by retired armed forces personnel -- to provide military and police training to America's foreign allies. The government has also vastly expanded the use of private firms to support its own overseas military operations, including top-secret antidrug actions in Latin America, intelligence gathering and military assistance programs for U.S. clients.


But based on the testimony of those who will speak -- and most agreed to talk only on background or not for attribution -- it is clear that dozens of companies, ranging from a $1 billion high-tech giant like SAIC to small-scale operations run by retired Green Berets, are offering military training and related assistance to foreign governments at the bidding of the United States. "The [private training] programs are designed to further our foreign policy objectives," says a former high-level official at the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.). "If the government doesn't sanction it, the companies don't do it.


But while this soldier-of-fortune element occupies a niche, it has had more and more difficulty landing anything beyond small-scale consulting contracts on counterterrorism or deals to provide protection for visiting V.I.P.s. For projects of scale, the freelance warriors have lost out badly to well-connected corporations stocked with elite government and military retired officials. As one Pentagon staffer told me, "Privatization is another way to reward the alumni." It's the revolving door all over again:


§ At M.P.R.I., twenty-two corporate officers are former high-ranking military figures. These include Gen. Carl Vuono, U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War; Gen. Ed Soyster, former head of the D.I.A.; and Gen. Frederick Kroesen, former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.

§ Vinnell is owned by B.D.M., a Beltway megacompany controlled by the Carlyle Group, an investment firm headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, former White House budget chief Richard Darman and former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci. B.D.M.'s president, Philip Odeen, headed the Pentagon task force on reshaping the military for the twenty-first century.

§ Board members at SAIC have included two former defense secretaries, William Perry and Melvin Laird, and two former C.I.A. chiefs, John Deutch and Robert Gates.

Click the HERE for the rest of the article