US: Company Gets Pentagon Contract Despite Death Inquiries

A defense contractor has been awarded a $35 million Pentagon contract
involving major electrical work even though it is under criminal
investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two American
soldiers in Iraq.

The contractor, KBR, announced last week that it had won a $35.4 million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers
to design and build a convoy support center at Camp Adder in southern
Iraq. The center will include a power plant and an electrical
distribution center.

Senator Byron L. Dorgan,
Democrat of North Dakota, called the contract inappropriate. "This is
hardly the time to award KBR a new contract for work they've already
failed to perform adequately, and which put U.S. soldiers at even
greater risk," Mr. Dorgan said.

Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said he had formally
asked the corps whether it was confident the company could accomplish
the work and whether there were any alternative contractors.

A KBR spokeswoman, Heather Browne, said the company would comply with the military's requirements on the contract.

Army criminal agents have reopened the death investigation of Staff
Sgt. Christopher Lee Everett, 23, a member of the Texas Army National
Guard. Sergeant Everett was killed in September 2005 in Iraq when the
power washer he was using to clean a vehicle short-circuited.

KBR and another contractor, Arkel International, performed the
electrical work on the device's generator, according to a civil lawsuit
filed by Sergeant Everett's family.

The Army had already reclassified another soldier's electrocution
death as a negligent homicide caused by KBR and two of its supervisors.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a member of the Green Berets from
Pittsburgh, was electrocuted in his barracks shower. An Army
investigator said KBR's contractor had failed to ensure that qualified
electricians and plumbers did the work in the barracks.

The case is under legal review, and KBR has said it was not responsible for the death.

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