Congress examines Iraq contract management

WASHINGTON: Congressional hearings this month on alleged contracting abuses in Iraq have yet to generate any serious fallout for companies called to testify, PR and military industry experts said.

WASHINGTON: Congressional hearings this month on alleged contracting abuses in Iraq have yet to generate any serious fallout for companies called to testify, PR and military industry experts said.

Beginning with a February 6 hearing featuring former Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer, followed the next day with dramatic testimony by the families of Blackwater USA contractors killed in Iraq, the House Committee on Over-sight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), has repeatedly vowed to crack down on alleged contract mismanagement.

A representative from Corallo Comstock confirmed the agency was working with Blackwater, but declined to comment further.

Don Goldberg, a partner at Qorvis Communications, which on January 1 began working with DynCorp and Halliburton, said that for the companies called to testify at the hearings, the aftereffects so far seem to be no more serious than one to two days' worth of media coverage of the testimony.

Defense contractor DynCorp has not yet had any direct connection to the hearings, but Halliburton subsidiary KBR has, though Goldberg noted that the upcoming spin-off of KBR, the business unit that handles its Iraq contracting work, should allow Halliburton - which also recently hired Patton Boggs to lobby on its behalf - to more easily dissociate itself with Iraq activities.

Winslow Wheeler, director of the independent Center for Defense Information's Straus Military Reform Project, said committee members at the hearings seemed ill-prepared and failed to elicit any information from witnesses. Hill & Knowlton SVP Don Meyer, a former Pentagon communications official, said there is a simple explanation.

"It's the members of the administration and the government functionaries who were involved that the Democrats are naturally targeting," Meyer said. "The contractors are just a means to an end here."

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