Bunny Bugs the War Profiteers
by Joshua Frank
most likely haven't heard of a feisty woman named Bunnatine "Bunny"
Greenhouse, even though you pay her salary. For over 20 years now,
Greenhouse has overseen contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers.
And up until last Saturday, Greenhouse was the highest-ranking civilian
member of the Army Corps of Engineers. She has been demoted for
"poor job performance," despite an untarnished career as one of
the country's highest-ranking procurement officers. And from what
you'll see, her performance has been anything but "poor."
why did she get shoved out of her position? Well, she did a bad
thing. She raised a little hell over the Pentagon's no-bid contracts
to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the fully owned subsidiary of
Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton. The Greenhouse/KBR debacle
all started back in the early months of 2003, when KBR was awarded
a handful of government contracts in anticipation of the invasion
of Iraq. One of KBR's major prewar contracts, the one that got Greenhouse
in hot water with the good old boys, was allotted to rebuild Iraqi
military strategists were anticipating that Saddam's oil fields
would be set afire as the U.S. invaded. It never happened. The Pentagon
dubbed the program Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO). They wanted the pipelines
to keep on flowing. Indeed, the lucrative contracts to rebuild the
oil fields came easy for KBR. They didn't even have to bid for it.
KBR was handed $7 billion for the RIO contract without a question
the RIO fiasco in this forthcoming book Grand Theft Pentagon, Jeffrey
St. Clair writes:
February 26, 2003, less than a month before the invasion of Iraq,
a meeting was convened in the inner sanctum of the Pentagon. The
purpose of this conclave was to devise a project that would come
to be known as RIO or Restore Iraq Oil. …
top priority on that February morning was to decide which U.S. company
would receive the juicy contract to put out the expected oil field
fires and to rebuild and manage Iraq's oil infrastructure, from
the wellheads to the pipelines to the big oil terminals off the
coast near Basra.
a way, this meeting in the bowels of the Pentagon was all for show,
a kind of mating ritual between the government and its favorite
contractor. There was little doubt about who was going to land the
deal. So little doubt, in fact, that a Halliburton executive had
been invited to attend the secret conclave. …
were several other companies that could have done the job that was
given to Halliburton. Fluor-Daniel, Parsons, and GSM Services were
all were just as qualified for the task. Yet, none of these firms
were invited to submit a bid or a plan of action...
was another curious hitch to the Halliburton RIO deal. Instead of
being administered by Douglas Feith's office at the Pentagon (as
were almost all of the other Iraq contracts), the Halliburton RIO
contract was pawned off on the Corps of Engineers, a remote outpost
of the Pentagon known, to the extent that it is known at all, for
the management of locks and dams on American rivers. Then an unexpected
thing happened. Despite a lot of baiting from the U.S. military
and the most bellicose voices of the Bush administration, Saddam
didn't ignite the Basra oil fields."
back to Bunny Greenhouse, who argued that the negotiation and preparation
of the RIO contract was unique, and in fact, unheard of. First,
procurements of this type never float through the offices of the
Army Corps. Second, despite the assignment to the Corps, the negotiating
process remained in the hands of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Third, Greenhouse was critical of KBR's integral role in developing
the contract, something that undermines the process of impartially
selecting a government contractor. And lastly, Greenhouse could
not understand why the RIO contract was written so that any future
contractor that wanted to bid on the Iraq reconstruction had to
submit their bid for work in correspondence with KBR's agreement.
This requirement, as Greenhouse saw it, was unattainable, for nobody
had access to the contract but KBR and the appropriate government
wasn't about to sit quietly by and let KBR off the hook. But she
was careful. She clearly didn't want to lose her job, so she initially
only spoke out about one of the aforementioned Pentagon idiocies.
But Greenhouse voiced her dissent in an unprecedented fashion. She
objected to the length of the initial contract, which extended for
five long years.
of sending out an internal memo venting her disgust, Greenhouse
wrote her objection directly on the original RIO contract, right
next to her signature. She wanted everyone to know that she was
not pleased with the deal. As she wrote, "I caution that extending
this sole source contract beyond a one-year period could convey
an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited
to say, the neocons overseeing the contract weren't too pleased
with Greenhouse's point of view. Shortly after she voiced her objection,
she received her first negative evaluation, in which her reviewer
commented, "nobody like[s] her." She was about to be demoted. No
longer was Greenhouse going to have budget authority. No longer
would she have any staff under her. But Greenhouse was savvy. She
hired a smart lawyer and her bosses backed off – for a while, at
on June 27, 2005, as part of the ongoing investigation into KBR's
no-bid contracts, Greenhouse agreed to testify before the Democratic
Policy Committee that was looking into the Halliburton/KBR contract
debacle. Greenhouse had been warned only three days prior that testifying
"would not be in her best interest." She didn't listen, however.
She spoke frankly to the committee.
have been involved with government contracting for over 20 years,"
she said. "[And] I can unequivocally state that the abuse related
to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper
contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional
after Greenhouse's brave testimony, she was placed on a 90-day performance
review. She was being punished for having the valor to expose the
fraud of the no-bid Pentagon contracts. And on Aug. 27, the hammer
came down. Greenhouse was demoted.
Cindy Sheehan's courageous campaign against Bush absorbs most of
the media attention these days, it's public servants like Bunnatine
"Bunny" Greenhouse who aren't getting any props, but are really
shaking things up in the halls of power out in Washington.
we should all give a nice, hearty prost to Bunny Greenhouse. She
Frank [send him mail]
is the author of Left
Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published
by Common Courage Press. To learn more, or to contact Frank, visit
© 2005 LewRockwell.com