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New York Times "Fact Check" column doesn't tell the whole story
7 Oct. 2004

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- A New York Times "Fact Check" column on Wednesday ("When Points Weren't Personal, Liberties Were Taken With the Truth") said, "But there is no evidence Mr. Cheney has pulled strings on Halliburton's behalf since becoming vice president. And the independent Government Accountability Office concluded that Halliburton was the only company that could have provided the services the Army needed at the outset of the war and was thus justified in having received the noncompetitive contract."

The basis for this conclusion was likely taken from a Congressional report: "Rebuilding Iraq: Fiscal year 2003 contract Award Procedures and Management Challenges," GAO-04-605.

Contrary to the conclusions made in the Times' FactCheck story, the Congressional report did find problems with awarding the no-bid oil contract to Halliburton. The report, authored by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said:

"There was a lesser degree of compliance when agencies issued 11 task orders under existing contracts. Task orders are deemed by law to satisfy competition requirements if they are within the scope, period of performance, and maximum value of a properly awarded underlying contract. GAO found several instances where contracting officers issued task orders for work that was not within the scope of the underlying contracts."

This was in fact the case with the task of developing contingency plans for Iraq's oil infrastructure, which was the first contract given to Halliburton before the war.

As the Minority Staff for the Committee on Government Reform in the House put it: This task was outside the scope of Halliburton's LOGCAP global logistics contract with the Army, which is to be used to provide logistics support to the troops. As the GAO put it, Administration officials "overstepped the latitude provided by competition laws" when they misused the logistics contract to assign the planning job to Halliburton. In addition, this plan was the major reason that Halliburton was later given its $7 billion sole-source oil infrastructure contract. (See "New GAO Report Finds Multiple Iraq Contract Abuses," June 14, 2004, available by clicking here.

By other accounts, the GAO was wrong that Halliburton was the only company able to provide such services. More than one other company with oil well firefighting experience from the first Gulf War (and therefore were likely not a security risk) tried to gain access to the bidding process but were shut out. See the Pentagon's letter to Sen. John Breaux (R-LA) in response to complaints by another company (GSM) that said it was shut out of bidding for that work before the war.

That story was reported by 60 Minutes ("All in the Family," September 21,2003).

A former Bechtel employee in charge of the company's bidding for later oil contracts explained in her testimony before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that "The Pentagon claimed Halliburton was best qualified because it had extinguished 320 oil well fires in Kuwait, but that company was responsible for extinguishing none of the 650 wells on fire when the first Gulf war ended. It was, in fact, Bechtel that managed the entire firefighting and oil field reconstruction in Kuwait ..."

As for whether or not the vice president had any direct influence over the awarding of these contracts, there is no absolute proof at this time. But evidence does exist suggesting that he may have been involved more than he said. It doesn't seem that the Vice President has helped clarify matters since he has not responded, for instance, to Rep. Henry Waxman's letter of June 13 requesting an explanation of his office's involvement.