The Houston Chronicle reported today that the Navy has asked Halliburton to repair naval facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
So now we not only have a disaster of our own to compare with Iraq, but it looks like the same well-connected network of "crony contractors" will be profiting from the aftermath.
The repair work was assigned to Halliburton's KBR subsidiary under an existing contract, in this case a $500 contract awarded to KBR in 2001, and renewed in 2004. The repairs will take place in Louisiana and Mississippi.
KBR has not been asked to repair the levees.
Recall that Joe Allbaugh, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), registered as a lobbyist for KBR in March.
Under Allbaugh's leadership, FEMA was placed in DHS, and its priorities were shifted from natural disasters to working on the GWOT. As Eric Holdeman pointed out in Tuesday's Post, the move eventually led to this year's announcement that FEMA is to "officially" lose the disaster preparedness function that it has had since its creation. "The move is a death blow to an agency that was already on life support."
Allbaugh is also a long-time close associate of Bush, as well as Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. He managed the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign and before that was governor Bush's chief of staff in Texas.
Perhaps these connections explain why, when it comes to new contracting opportunities, Allbaugh seems to always know which way the wind is blowing.
After the invasion of Iraq, for instance, Allbaugh helped form New Bridge Strategies with Lanny Rogers (also a close friend of Barbour), which described itself as "a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration."
While it has taken longer than anticipated, the climate for those new "business opportunities" in Iraq is still being shaped by the U.S., as economic "reforms" get inserted into the draft constitution that would would help the "private sector" find new opportunities to effectively pilfer that country's riches. (This looting story has gotten much less attention from the press than the pictures from New Orleans. Who knows, maybe we'll soon be told that Halliburton "found" the oil in Iraq, too.)
Meanwhile, for the vast majority of the Iraqi people, the reconstruction project (once touted by administration officials as well as Thomas Friedman as a Middle East Marshall Plan) has been a total disaster. Kind of like what the people in the Superdome have experienced this week -- no water or electricity, anarchy in the streets and the smell of death everywhere.
So we can't be surprised if/when we witness another, second wave of looting by a network of crony contractors whose connections run deep in an administration responsible for dismantling our ability to prevent this disaster, alleviate the suffering and chaos and damage after, and possibly prevent global warming from bringing worse disasters in the future.