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Contractors Raked in $385 Billion on Overseas Bases in 12 Years

Every year, US taxpayers send billions of dollars abroad to build and maintain our military presence.

| Tue May 14, 2013 1:49 PM EDT

The Rest of the Top 10: A Pattern of Misconduct

Things don't get much better farther down the list. Next come DynCorp International and Fluor Intercontinental, which along with KBR won the latest LOGCAP contracts. Awarding that contract to three companies rather than one was intended to increase competition. In practice, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, each corporation has enjoyed a "mini-monopoly" over logistics services in Afghanistan and other locations. DynCorp, which has also won large wartime private security contracts, has a history littered with charges of overbilling, shoddy construction, smuggling laborers onto bases, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking.

Although a Fluor employee pled guilty in 2012 to conspiring to steal and sell military equipment in Iraq, it's the only defense firm in the world to receive an "A" on Transparency International's anti-corruption index that rates companies' efforts to fight corruption. On the other hand, number seven on the list, ITT (now Exelis), received a "C" (along with KBR and DynCorp).

The last three in the top ten are BP (which tops the Project on Government Oversight's federal contractor misconduct list) and the petroleum companies of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. After all, the US military runs on oil. It consumed five billion gallons in fiscal year 2011 alone, or more than all of Sweden. In total, 10 of the top 25 firms are oil companies, with contracts for delivering oil overseas totaling around $40 billion.

Spreading the Love

Contractors are hardly alone in raking in the dollars from the Pentagon's baseworld. Pentagon officials, military personnel, members of Congress, and lobbyists, among others, have all benefited—financially, politically, and professionally—from the giant overseas presence. In particular, contractors have spread the love by making millions in campaign contributions to members of Congress. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, military contractors and their employees gave more than $27 million in election donations in 2012 alone, and have donated almost $200 million since 1990.

Most of these have gone to members of the armed services and appropriations committees in the Senate and House of Representatives. These, of course, have primary authority over awarding military dollars. For the 2012 elections, for example, DynCorp International's political action committee donated $10,000 to both the chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and made additional donations to 33 other members of the House and Senate armed services committees and 16 members of the two appropriations committees.

Most contractors also pay lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to sway military budgeteers and policymakers their way. KBR and Halliburton spent nearly $5.5 million on lobbying between 2002 and 2012, including $420,000 in 2008 when KBR won the latest LOGCAP contract and $620,000 the following year when it protested being barred from bidding on contracts in Kuwait. Supreme spent $660,000 on lobbying in 2012 alone. Agility spent $200,000 in 2011, after its second indictment on fraud charges, and Fluor racked up nearly $9.5 million in lobbying fees from 2002 to 2012.

Shrinking the Baseworld

Today, there are some signs of baseworld shrinkage. The hundreds of bases built in Iraq are long gone, and many of the hundreds built in Afghanistan are now being shut down as US combat troops prepare to withdraw. The military is downsizing an old base in the Portuguese Azores and studying further base and troop reductions in Europe. While many in Congress are resisting an Obama administration request to reduce "excess capacity" among thousands of domestic bases through two new rounds of the Base Realignment and Closure process, at least some current and former members of Congress are calling for a parallel effort to close bases abroad.

At the same time, however, the military is building (or exploring the possibility of building) new bases from Asia and Africa to the Persian Gulf and Latin America. Small drone bases are on the rise from Niger to Saudi Arabia. Even in Europe, the Pentagon is still building bases while closing others.

Much work remains to be done to figure out who's been benefiting from the Pentagon's baseworld. The billions in contracts that sustain our bases, however, are a good reminder that there are immediate savings available by reducing troop deployments and Cold War bases abroad. They are also a reminder of where we should look when we're told there isn't enough money for Head Start or hospitals or housing.

For decades, tens of billions of dollars in overseas spending have ended up in the coffers of a select few, with many billions leaking out of the US economy entirely. Stemming those leaks by cutting overseas spending and redirecting precious resources toward long-neglected non-military needs is an important way to help revive an economy that has long benefited the few rather than the many.

Top 25 Recipients of Pentagon Contracts Abroad

 

CONTRACT AWARDEE

TOTAL IN BILLIONS

1.

Miscellaneous Foreign Contractors

$47.1

2.

KBR, Inc.

44.4

3.

Supreme Group

9.3

4.

Agility Logistics (PWC)

9.0

5.

DynCorp International

8.6

6.

Fluor Intercontinental

8.6

7.

ITT/Exelis, Inc.

7.4

8.

BP, P.L.C.

5.6

9.

Bahrain Petroleum Company

5.1

10.

Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company

4.5

11.

SK Corporation

3.8

12.

Red Star Enterprises (Mina Corporation)

3.8

13.

World Fuel Services Corporation

3.8

14.

Motor Oil (Hellas), Corinth Refineries S.A.

3.7

15.

Combat Support Associates Ltd.

3.8

16.

Refinery Associates Texas, Inc.

3.3

17.

Lockheed Martin Corporation

3.2

18.

Raytheon Company

3.1

19.

S-Oil Corporation (Ssangyong)

3.0

20.

International Oil Trading Co./Trigeant Ltd.

2.7

21.

FedEx Corporation

2.2

22.

Contrack International, Inc.

2.0

23.

GS/LG-Caltex (Chevron Corporation)

1.9

24.

Washington Group/URS Corporation

1.6

25.

Tutor Perini Corporation (Perini)

1.5

 

SUBTOTAL

$201.8

 

All Other Contractors:

TOTAL

$183.4

$385.2

David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the US Military Base on Diego Garcia. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the effects of US military bases located outside the United States. For more of his writing, visit www.davidvine.net.

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