Christy Hardin SmithCommunity

DOD Inspector General Finds Multiple KBR And Military Failures In Electrocution Deaths

Last January, Sens. Dorgan and Casey and the Democratic Policy Committee pushed the Department of Defense to investigate multiple issues with electrocution deaths in Iraq.

The IG’s office delivered its initial report yesterday (PDF).  As Sen. Byron Dorgan says:

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said Monday a new Defense Department Inspector General investigation confirms findings of a hearing he chaired a year ago: the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth was the result of poor-quality electrical work by contractor KBR and that the Army failed to adequately oversee KBR or hold the company accountable.

“This is a damning report,” Dorgan said Monday. “The conduct of both KBR and the Army is unacceptable.”

In the report, the Inspector General concluded that KBR failed to ground equipment which contributed to the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Maseth. . . .

“KBR has repeatedly denied any responsibility for what happened to Sgt. Maseth and other soldiers who were shocked and electrocuted in Iraq. This report makes it impossible for them to do that any longer,” Dorgan added. “Instead of cutting corners and issuing denials, KBR needs to get very serious, very quickly about doing quality work that protects soldiers rather than endangering them.”

The IG report is blunt: KBR failed to ground a water pump that provided water to showers where Sgt. Maseth was stationed, and Army supervisors failed to set baseline standards, inspect negligent work, or hold anyone accountable for shoddy work product — and even for deaths of its own servicepeople — until forced to do so by a public shaming.

Huge kudos to Sen. Dorgan and the other members of the DPC for continuing to force this issue.

Because otherwise, it would have simply disappeared, with family members having been told on multiple occasions that their loved ones either died of natural causes or died of self-inflicted electrocutions.  Beyond shameful conduct from multiple actors in this.

Thus far, the ongoing IG review has found that at least 9 electrocution deaths of US troops in Iraq can be attributed to shoddy electrical work and failure to follow proper safety procedures, and failures on multiple layers of supposedly required military inspections which should have caught the errors.

Worse, I’m told there is still a lot to inspect and review, which means that this ongoing investigation may not have caught all the shoddy work as yet.  I am currently trying to verify this with DOD sources.

American troops are risking their lives in uniform. Who knew they’d also be risking their lives in the shower because of faulty contracting work?

They deserve a hell of a lot better than that. 

And so do we all, since we’ve paid "$83.4 million in bonuses that the Pentagon paid KBR under LOGCAP III Task Order 139 for its shoddy electrical work," per Sen. Dorgan’s press release on the IG report.  That’s your taxpayer dollars, folks.

For more on the IG report, see the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, CNN and the WaPo.  For more on prior DPC policy hearings regarding contractor abuses, see here, here, here, here and here.  Just for starters.

(YouTube — Sen. Byron Dorgan demanding accountability from the DOD IG’s office on these electrocution deaths.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com