Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Iraq contractor cut deal for lawsuit immunity

by Julie Sullivan The Oregonian

American taxpayers — and not KBR– will likely pay if the war contractor is found to have harmed Oregon Army National Guard veterans who say they were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in Iraq. The startling details emerged in documents related to a U.S. District Court hearing Monday that illuminate the secretive world of defense contracting.

Documents show that within days of the 2003 Iraq invasion, Kellogg, Brown and Root delivered an ultimatum to the Pentagon:

Either the Army cover the potential cost of any soldier or civilian killed or harmed on a KBR project – or the defense contractor would not carry out its no-bid contract restoring Iraqi oil.

The Army agreed to it, according to a deposition given by a KRB attorney who delivered the ultimatum. The attorney added that KBR has also recently notified the Army that it will have to reimburse KBR for court and potential liability costs.

On Monday, attorneys representing the 26 current and former Oregon soldiers and those representing KBR argued nearly 80 minutes over whether the case should go forward in U.S. District Court in Oregon. KBR asked Magistrate Judge Paul Papak for a second time to dismiss the case, saying a private company doing the job of the military on the battlefield should receive the same envelope of protection the military does.

In 2009, Oregon National Guard troops sued the former Halliburton subsidiary claiming that managers downplayed or dismissed the presence hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing rust fighter. In 2003, U.S. and British troops had guarded KBR workers repairing a decrepit water-treatment plant near Basra used to maintain pressure in oil wells. Piles of the toxic orange-yellow powder stained the soil, water and walls of the critical Qarmat Ali plant.

Troops from four states and Britain later claimed they suffer health problems as a result. At least two who were exposed to the chemical have died of cancer. KBR defended itself by saying the Army was responsible for safety at the plant and that the soldiers were not there long enough to be risk of cancer. Exposure to 40 micrograms of hexavalent chromium per cubic meter — about the size of a grain of salt in about a cubic yard — has shown a high increase in lung cancer, stomach, brain, renal, bladder and bone cancers.

Judge Papak said he will decide quickly whether the case should proceed. But already the limited discovery Papak has allowed is being tracked by attorneys suing, or defending, KBR nationwide. More logistical support has been conducted by private companies in Iraq and Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. wars. Full Story here

July 13, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, KBR, Pentagon, Safety and Security Issues, Wartime Contracting | , , , | Leave a comment