News on KBR Chemical Exposure Litigation

This site is not affiliated with nor sponsored by KBR or its affiliated companies

Home» News Coverage » Local Newspapers » Oregon Live » Oregon Congressmen attach oversight amendment to 2012 Defense Authorization Bill

Oregon Congressmen attach oversight amendment to 2012 Defense Authorization Bill

Visit Oregon Live for Full Stories

Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian

Oregonians on Wednesday successfully amended the House Defense Authorization bill to spotlight who pays when a defense contractor causes harm.

The amendment requires the Pentagon to report when it enters or changes immunity agreements with contractors. It is the latest strategy by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader to boost the transparency into defense contracts.

“We’re trying to get more and better information and get people to think twice,” said Blumenauer.

The Oregon delegation began scrutinizing contractor immunity after 34 former Oregon Army National Guard soldiers sued war contractor Kellogg, Root and Brown in 2009. The combat veterans allege that while guarding KBR’s operations to restore oil early in the Iraq war, they were exposed to a rust-fighter at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant. The material contained the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, and soldiers say they suffer serious health problems as a result.

KBR has denied causing any harm. But a deposition filed in the case in U.S. District Court in Portland last year revealed that before the war ever started, a KBR attorney won a secret clause ensuring that U.S. taxpayers, and not KBR, would pay in the event of any death or injury.

Blumenauer sought to get a copy of the indemnification clause in the KBR contract, which remains classified. But Blumenauer was able to make public 124 contracts with similar immunity provisions from the Pentagon. The list indicated the government legally covers dozens of military contractors doing dangerous jobs, such as making anthrax vaccine or disposing of mustard gas.

Schrader said contractors are “working the system to the taxpayers’ detriment.”

“They’re getting all the benefit and taking none of the risk and that’s unconscionable. If they’re going to have these nice exclusive agreements where they make a ton off the American taxpayer and frankly, American service members’ backs, we want them to be held responsible.”

About 82 percent of the Pentagon’s current budget goes to contractors and grants, along with 83 percent of the State Department’s and 99 percent of USAID’s net operation costs. Critics say the current administration lacks the ability to oversee the privatization that is not bound by the same rules and ethics as government employees.

The amendment requires the defense secretary to notify congressional defense and budget committees within 90 days of changing an indemnification agreement, including the name of the contractor, cost involved and circumstances. Sensitive contracts around national security would be exempt.

The House is expected to vote on the Defense Authorization bill by Friday.

-Julie Sullivan

Short URL:

Posted by on May 26 2011. Filed under Oregon Live. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “Oregon Congressmen attach oversight amendment to 2012 Defense Authorization Bill”

  1. Where is the outrage? Our mainstream press has to do a better job of revealing these shenigans and spend less time on celebs “falling from grace”. OK, let the Today Show, and the like, stay in the shallow end of the news pool. The evening news programs do a trifle better and that’s not good enough! If the American voter wants better government during fiscally challenging times, then federal waste and vendor-oriented contracting has to stop. These contracts are meant to serve citizens and our military, not our congress’ favorite lobbys.

Comments are closed

Recently Commented

  • Reggie Faas: Rattling nice style and design and fantastic content material , nothing else we require : D.
  • Michael Hobson: As usual, corporations have worked with our supposed elected representatives/leaders (Dick Chaney,...
  • Burn Pit Voices: We are kindly asking you to be the voice for troops; we need your support to have our voice’s be...
  • David lyle: I was there from April 2003 to aug 2003. What are the symptoms now in 2012? Am I going to die? What...
  • Larry Roberta: alth_impact/other/Qarmat%20Ali %20FINAL%20Report%20Sept%2028. pdf Here...