Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Halliburton, Halliburton!

Summary: A lot of people in the media and in the Democratic Party have insinuated that one of the main reasons that we are in Iraq is because Dick Cheney profits from Halliburton, and Halliburton wants to make a lot of money. I want to give you my perspective on what Halliburton is contributing to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There are very few companies that could take on the logistical responsibilities that Halliburton takes on. Providing all of the services that Halliburton does for approximately 150,000 soldiers all over the country is remarkable. Never once have I been without a hot cooked meal. I have always been able to take a shower when I wanted to—almost always with warm water. Every barracks that I have stayed in has been cooled by air conditioning. I can lift weights whenever I am not on duty or on some kind of mission.

Halliburton employees are doing a lot of things that it would cost a lot more to do if soldiers were involved. Its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) coordinates all of the logistics on the bases that I have been on, from showers, toilets and garbage, to movies, ping pong tournaments, and weightlifting, to food, ice, water, and Gatorade. KBR employs further subsidiary companies from Africa and Eastern Europe to take care of sanitation—such as ensuring that toilets and showers are clean, and that garbage is transported to the dump and burned. Barbers cut my hair. Cashiers provide most of what I need at the Post Exchange. People at the embroidery shop sew insignia on my caps and repair tears in my uniforms. I have met very courteous Halliburton employees from India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sudan, Hungary, and many more—not to mention Iraq.

Halliburton charges a lot of money for their services, because a lot of risk is involved. A roadside bomb is just as foreboding to a KBR trucker as it is to an American soldier—actually even more so, because our humvees have more armor than an 18-wheeler. It is remarkable to see how successful these convoys are at delivering what needs to be there, in the face of sometimes huge risk. I know of several KBR truck drivers who have been maimed and even killed by roadside bombs, but the work goes on almost flawlessly. This all translates into the reality that Halliburton is not making a lot of money on Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Halliburton makes life for the soldiers a lot more comfortable. I haven’t had a swimming pool at any of the bases I’ve been on, but I’ve had a lot more than I expected. Treadmills and elliptical trainers are a real plus when either the rainy season or the intense heat make running outside inadvisable. The weight room is nearly every bit as good as the Gold’s Gym I go to back home. I can even watch Fox News or ESPN while I’m working out. And there’s always cold water in the cooler (at Gold’s back home I have to either bring my own or buy it on site). Wednesday night is crab night at the DFAC (dining facility). My morale is great in part because I have not had to eat an MRE since being at the National Training Center in California over a year ago.

I’ve just gotten to a different base where KBR was not in charge at first, and there is a huge difference since they got here. Since they took over, many of the weight and cardio machines have been repaired, and more are on the way. Electrical outlets and light switches in our barracks that have not worked for a long time have been repaired. Showers have been cleaned and repainted, and the moldy shower curtains have been replaced.

I’ve often wondered what economic upheaval will occur when the American military goes home and Halliburton’s services are no longer needed. Thousands a men and women from several countries will have to find new jobs. But with their newly acquired skills and responsibilities, they will provide productive goods and services for their countrymen when they return home.

14 comments:

RichJ said...

Glad to see someone highlighting what Halliburton is actually doing for the war effort. I might have to send them a resume.

Elizabeth said...

Pardon me for not being impressed. Cooking hot meals, and cleaning toilets? Don't most American women do these tasks on a regular basis (for free!) I guess if Halliburton couldn't manage that, they would really be incompetent!

Frank Staheli said...

Elizabeth,

I'm sure they would hire you in a second, and you would actually get paid for it!!!

Bill W said...

Thanks Frank -

As a contractor who has worked over there (not for Halliburton) on reconstruction projects I second your impression. What they are doing is unbelievable. If people only understood what it takes to run the logistics all over the country there ...

And then the only thing you ever hear reported is "Halliburton" "made" $7 or $8 Billion dollars! The did not "make" that, that was the revenue. What they "made" is their profit at the end of the day, and their profit margin is not very high - lower than most businesses - reflecting the risk of doing business in those places.

Bag Blog said...

KBR was a company up and running and doing their thing long before Halliburton bought them. Halliburton has very little to do with KBR. It is mostly the VP's popularity with the press that has made Halliburton a household name (or curse word).
I live in Duncan, OK, home of Halliburton, and my husband works for H. It is a good company that does much for its employees and the town of Duncan.He will appreciate your comments. If there is anything we can do for you, let us know. You are the one who is appreciated.

Luv2Box said...

Shame to Elizabeth for not being impressed! I am a SAH (stay-at-home) mom and clean and cook everyday. But I have the comfort of my home with no worries of bombs going off when I drive to the grocery store! Whether they are civilian or military, so many of our men and women are taken for granted for all they do and I for one am VERY thankful and grateful. Without them, how can we keep freedom at home and abroad?

Frank Staheli said...

luv2box,

Thank you for your kindness and eloquence. I shared your expressions with my team members, and they are grateful for your comments, concern, and support as well.

J.Lawson said...

Elizabeth -

All snarky commenting aside, I don't think you have any idea just what a logistical effort it is and how much material it takes to even FEED 150,000+ people four meals a day, much less do anything else that Halliburton does.

Back in the late 80s, early 90s the trend was to outsource the divisions of the military that were concerned with troop support - because civilians could do it cheaper and better. One of the main reasons we needed so many people in WW2 was that we had to carry a complete infrastructure along to supply the front lines - look up the "Red Ball Express". It was necessary to have mobile field kitchens, mobile bakeries, mobile laundries and shower units - all manned by soldiers, all needing to be fed, all needing transport. It was a hellacious logistical challenge, but one that was necessary because there wasn't any other way to do it.

If you're not impressed, it's because you don't realize the magnitude of the challenge, and how it was overcome - and it's pretty amazing to me that we've got companies in existance that can do what it took hundreds of thousands of men in the 40's.

J.Lawson

Frank Staheli said...

J. Lawson,

Thank you for your enlightening addition to my post. I guess it goes to show that private enterprise often can do things more efficiently than government can.

Dominick DeNapoli said...

In the early 1960's, we were lucky to get warm water at Fort Dix and Fort Bliss, let alone in offshore posts. I was fortunate enough to be out before Nam heated up, but it wasn't pretty there either. Given the great job that's being done in Iraq by our troops, I'm glad to hear that HAL is doing right by you guys. Stay safe.

Elizabeth said...

Did any of you read the story referenced in this NYTimes editorial:


Published: April 27, 2006

The Bush administration's promise that Iraq's reconstruction could be paid for with the country's own oil revenues was one of the many false assertions and assurances that ushered in the invasion. But unlike the predictions of weapons of mass destruction and streets filled with cheering Iraqis, this claim might have been at least partly true -- if the administration had more carefully supervised the lucrative no-bid oil industry repair contract it awarded to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the firm formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Part of that contract involved repairing a crucial pipeline link that American bombing had severed in the course of the invasion. Had the repair been done right the first time, Iraq would have been able to export much more oil from its northern oil fields in the past few years, making it far less dependent on American reconstruction aid, which has amounted to about $30 billion so far.


How this costly and unnecessary failure came about was spelled out by James Glanz in a compelling investigative report in Tuesday's Times. He described the easily avoidable engineering errors that delayed the reopening of the crucial pipeline link while the contracted funds ran out and the security situation for reconstruction workers deteriorated drastically. It is instructive to recall the circumstances in which Halliburton was awarded this contract just prior to the Iraq invasion -- with no competitive bidding. Later, when Democrats in Congress began raising questions, the Pentagon pointed to Halliburton's special expertise in oil-field management and its long experience working under Army Corps of Engineers' supervision.

But neither the expertise nor the supervision were much in evidence on the Fatah repair job. The Halliburton subsidiary managing the project ignored the clear warnings of its own consultants and let the drilling begin without any rigorous testing of the ground it needed to work in, which turned out to be a geological fault zone. As a result, drill bits repeatedly snapped and drill holes kept collapsing.

Frank Staheli said...

Elizabeth,

A couple of responses to your comments:

1. I don't have any experience with Halliburton/KBR beyond what I have already described.

2. It is pretty blatant to suggest that George Bush could "promise" that oil revenues would be used for reconstruction. It is, in my opinion, optimism that was not followed by a successful implementation.

3. Please don't let your bias give the impression that you think the United States has done more than the insurgency to sabotage oil production, as this is clearly not the case. See one of my previous posts about this very issue.

Elizabeth said...

Frank, if you think I was suggesting that Halliburton was deliberately sabotaging the oil pipeline project, you must think I'm seriously paranoid! I'm a psychotherapist, not a psycho.

I know there are wackos out there who think Bush planned 9-11 and all kinds of other conspiracy theories, but most people who are in the liberal/progressive spectrum are not wackos.

Anonymous said...

Frank, if you think I was suggesting that Halliburton was deliberately sa