Kerry to Focus on Political Cronyism and Cheney-Halliburton Connections -- Woman Involved in Iraq Contracting Releases the Hard Evidence He Needs

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On Friday, Senator Kerry will begin focusing on political cronyism in the Bush administration, in particular, Cheney’s connections to Halliburton, according to the Washington Post. To make his case, Kerry will need more than the circumstantial evidence the administration's critics have presented to date. Sheryl Tappan was involved in the Iraq contracting and has the hard evidence the Senator needs. She has just released her story in a daring new book, "Shock and Awe in Fort Worth." She has identified missing links in the bureaucratic chain between the Vice President and Halliburton's Iraq oil field contracts, and her book shows how they lied and cheated Halliburton's competitors and committed procurement fraud.

Shock and Awe in Fort Worth: How the U.S. Army Rigged the 'Free and Open Competition' to Replace Halliburton's Sole-Source Oil Field Contract in Iraq.

Senator Kerry will begin focusing Friday on political cronyism in the Bush administration, especially the connections between Halliburton and Vice President Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, according to Monday’s Washington Post. Halliburton's Iraq contracts have yielded nearly $12 billion worth of work to date, four times as much as the second-place U.S. contractor in Iraq, Bechtel, with $3 billion worth of work to be completed by the end of 2005 for USAID. Sheryl Tappan was involved in the Iraq contracting and has the hard evidence of cronyism in the Halliburton contract awards that Senator Kerry’s campaign needs. She has just presented the facts in a daring new book, "Shock and Awe in Fort Worth: How the U.S. Army Rigged the 'Free and Open Competition' to Replace Halliburton's Sole-Source Oil Field Contract in Iraq."

After the Pentagon was forced to reveal in March 2003 that it had secretly awarded $7 billion worth of Iraq oil field work to Halliburton KBR, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District was supposed to give other contractors a chance to bid on the work. The irony is the competition for the two replacement contracts turned out to be far more corrupt than the original sole-source award. The competition appeased Bush administration critics because the bidders who realized it was a sham have been afraid to speak out and so the fraud was never revealed — until now. Last summer, Sheryl Tappan led Bechtel’s proposal team in that competition until she discovered it was a sham and recommended Bechtel withdraw, which it did.

Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, has been accused of giving the Iraq oil field work to his cronies based on circumstantial evidence, not proof. Big business IS Republican, but political contributions or financial ties are not enough to convict or defeat Cheney and Bush. Cheney’s critics have never identified the bureaucratic pathway by which the payback could have been achieved, or even a single link in the chain. Tappan has. Her book names individuals at the Corps and shows how they lied and cheated Halliburton’s competitors and violated federal law. "Bidders who know what happened have never complained for fear of losing their chances of winning future government work," Tappan said, "but as an independent consultant, I’m not bound by this code of silence to which federal contractors adhere." (Earlier last year, she was responsible for the proposal that won Bechtel the Iraq civil infrastructure reconstruction contract from USAID.)

According to articles in The New Yorker in February, Halliburton’s secret $7 billion contract was authorized at the "highest levels of the Administration" (source: The New York Times) and "anything that has to do with Iraq policy, Cheney’s the man to see, he’s running it..." (source: "a businessman with close ties to the Bush administration"). The missing links Tappan identifies in "Shock and Awe in Fort Worth" include generals as well as contracting staff responsible for selecting the Iraq oil contractors and overseeing their performance. "I believe they should all be prosecuted for procurement fraud, corruption, and conspiracy, committed more openly and arrogantly than I’ve ever seen," Tappan said, "and the Inspector General is supposed to be conducting an unbiased investigation of Halliburton KBR’s overcharging, but certain of his actions suggest he may be involved in the favoritism toward Halliburton as well."

Kerry needs a path forward out of the quagmire of federal contracting waste and abuse. Halliburton’s highly publicized overcharging for delivering fuel and serving meals to troops in Iraq reveal what Tappan calls "just the tip of the iceberg of federal contracting problems, problems that are only going to get worse." The U.S. Government depends on private contractors to perform hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of work every year. Due to the war in Iraq, Bush’s outsourcing initiative, and other factors, that dependency and those contract dollars have been increasing at a dramatic rate. At the same time, the number of federal personnel who select the contractors and oversee their performance has been decreasing at an even faster rate — by 50% at DoD in the last decade alone, and half of the remaining procurement staff are expected to retire by 2007. "It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these two trends are on a collision course, and the fallout will be devastating to government operations, be they at war or at home," says Tappan, "and we’ll all suffer — taxpayers, children, retirees, not just the military; education, health care, all government services, not just defense."

While bestsellers have been attacking the Bush administration from the left, or defending it from the right, "Shock and Awe in Fort Worth" is the first book to present a constructive, nonpartisan examination of the Iraq contracting debacle and to identify a path forward out of the quagmire of financial waste and potential abuse that the government’s large, cost-reimbursable contracts have become. Tappan presents a tough three-point plan to achieve the level of transparency and accountability required on mega-contracts like Halliburton’s in Iraq, but it will undoubtedly be controversial. "I fear," she says, "that without a radical reassessment, the government will apply its usual solutions, which just don’t work; they’re all smoke and mirrors, as I explain in my book."

For more information on the author or the book, go to http://www.BookRegime.com or e-mail Sheryl Tappan via TappanConsulting@msn.com

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