Privatization & Procurement
Making a big splash in recent weeks, Science Applications International Corp. bought two companies, adding new capabilities in cybersecurity, energy and disaster recovery - areas in which government spending is expected to grow.
America's big builders invaded Iraq three years ago, hard on the heels of U.S. troops and tanks. Now the reconstruction billions are drying up so they're pulling out, leaving both completed and unfinished projects in the hands of an Iraqi government unprepared to manage either.
Even within the troubled Alabama penal system, this state compound near Huntsville was notorious for cruel punishment and medical neglect. In one drafty, rat-infested warehouse once reserved for chain gangs, the state quarantined its male prisoners with H.I.V. and AIDS, until the extraordinary death toll - 36 inmates from 1999 to 2002 - moved inmates to sue and the government to promise change.
This week, almost a decade after the U.S. "War on Terror" began, the Commission on Wartime Contracting held two days of hearings into the role of private contractors in conducting and supporting war. The Congressional witness table included Aegis, DynCorp and Triple Canopy. Curiously, Blackwater was not called; and the CEO of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions failed to appear.
When food industry giants like Kellogg want to ensure that American consumers are being protected from contaminated products, they rely on private inspectors. With government inspectors overwhelmed by the task of guarding the nation's food supply, the job of monitoring food plants has in large part fallen to an army of private auditors, and problems are rife.
Five major military contractors are competing to design a system to tackle up to two million undocumented immigrants a year in the United States. Boeing, Ericsson, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are working on proposals that focus on high technology rather than high fences, but ignoring some of the fundamental problems of immigration. Listen to an interview with author, Joseph Richey.
In "HALLIBURTON'S ARMY: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War" (Nation Books; February 9, 2009; $26.95), muckraking journalist Pratap Chatterjee conducts a highly detailed investigation into Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR's activities in Kuwait and Iraq, uncovering much new information about its questionable practices and extraordinary profits.
Media corporations give millions, receive billions. The cost for two weeks of ad-driven debate on Kerry's military record cost almost $1 million. Political advertising will bring over $1.5 billion to media corporations this election season. In turn they will invest millions in campaign contributions and lobbying. Meanwhile, substantive political coverage continues to decline.