Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, March 11, 2007

  Washington Post notices the Walter Reed privatization scandal

More than a week ago, blogs (especially Unbossed) helped to bring public attention to the role that IAP's contract at Walter Reed Army Medical Center played in the neglect of wounded soldiers there. On Saturday, the Washington Post finally got around to examining the issue. There have been a few stray mentions of the IAP contract in WaPo stories in the past, but overall the paper of record in DC had ignored or downplayed the issue.

So how deep does WaPo dig into the IAP scandal this time? Not very. You would learn little from the article that you didn't already know from reading the posts here and at Unbossed over the last week.

The Post does add this one detail, which we've not mentioned so far:

Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who was Walter Reed's commander until he was relieved last week, testified this week that the privatization -- in combination with a decision by the Pentagon in 2005 to close Walter Reed by 2011 -- "absolutely" contributed to the problems.

But on the whole, the article is supremely thin on specifics. Even worse, it plays the game of attributing nearly all criticisms of IAP to those who may be accused of having a bias in the matter.

Some Democratic lawmakers have questioned the decision to hire IAP Worldwide Services, a contractor with connections to the Bush administration and to KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary...

Yesterday, the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal workers union, blamed pressure on the Army from the White House's Office of Management and Budget for the decision to privatize its civilian workforce.

"Left to its own devices, the Army would likely have suspended this privatization effort," John Gage, president of the organization, said in a statement. "However, the political pressure from OMB left Army officials with no choice but to go forward, even if that resulted in unsatisfactory care to the nation's veterans."

As we've reported here, last year there was bipartisan support in Congress for stopping the IAP contract in its tracks. As we've also reported here, quite a few military people wanted to stop it--including the last two commanders at Walter Reed.

And while AFGE has been a leader in fighting this monstrous contract, it would have been far more to the point if the WaPo had simply cited the documentary evidence from the Army for what John Gage is telling them. There's a lot of documentary evidence related to this story--including the Waxman/Tierney letter from last week--but none of it gets mentioned in this story.

The WaPo article also avoids the fundamental issues. Although it does mention the re-opening of the A-76 bidding process in a way that favored IAP, it gives little impression of how egregious the manipulation was. This is the full extent of the information provided; you be the judge of whether the WaPo has glossed over the ugly truth:

After IAP protested, Army auditors ruled that the cost estimates offered by in-house federal workers were too low. They had to submit a new bid, which added 23 employees and $16 million to their cost, according to the Army.

Above all, the article fails to put this incident in the context of the privatizing mania that the Bush administration has created since 2003. Without that context, what does the story amount to? A single, perhaps ill-advised, contract that somehow or other went bad.

Having started off rather weakly, the article then trails off into a toothless description of IAP's expression of a "sense of urgency" regarding WRAMC, and IAP's other government contracts. You wouldn't gather from this article that IAP has a well-established record of incompetence if not indifference in its government contracts. No mention at all, indeed, of IAP's notorious failure to deliver ice to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina!

In short, the WaPo article is a week late and a whole dollar short. Once again, the Post gives the impression that it cares most deeply about taking care of bidness.

crossposted from Unbossed

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