Deep Water, Deep Doo Doo
Here’s a good place for the Committee on Government Reform to begin in January – the scandalous waste and mismanagement blanketing the Coast Guard’s Deep Water project, yet another multi-billion dollar notch in the Department of Homeland Security’s stupid stick. How or why Sec’y Michael “Of the Devil” Chertoff keeps his job amid the preponderance of Rumsfeldian incompetence throughout his agency, is a good question for Tony Snow.
The federal project to retool the cutter fleet, and build larger composite hulled cutters from scratch, is a privatized Northrop Grumman/Lockheed-Martin bag job originally budgeted at $17 billion. Waste and incompetence have spiked the cost to an estimated $24 billion, while eight of the ten “rebuilt” cutters are currently out of commission. Contractually, the Coast Guard is allowed only minimal oversight – and concerns raised by Coast Guard engineers early on were pointedly ignored. Most telling in the NYT’s piece on the situation is this comment, explaining why DHS agreed to such a one-sided contract with Northrop and Lockheed:
“They have armies of lobbyists, they can help get dollars to get the job done,” explained Jim McEntire, a retired captain who had served as a senior Coast Guard budget official. “The White House and Congress listen to big industrial concerns.”
The Bush Adm’n and Congress won’t give the Coast Guard, or any of the other armed services, what they need to complete their missions without the imprimatur of some pre-approved “big industrial concerns." DHS can't spread PAC money around like Tony Soprano on the feast of St. Anthony, but Lockheed-Martin can. Consequently, military contractors told the US government what the Coast Guard needed, and then built it for the price they set with no meaningful input or oversight from the customer. Would anyone in their right mind build a house, or buy a car under those conditions? Of course not. So should it come as any surprise that the boats Lockheed and Northrop built aren’t seaworthy, or that the equipment they installed is outdated, poorly designed, and in some cases, flat-out inappropriate?
Deep Water is an exemplar of the Bush-Cheney version of the “free market” – no government oversight, no-bid contracts, and corporate interests put well ahead of the national interest. It’s also exactly why corrupt greedheads like Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Karl Rove complain that there isn’t enough money in politics. It’s a “legal” way of directing tax dollars into the pockets of politicians and political parties. It’s hard to imagine a stronger argument for publicly-financed elections.
Boeing Corporation’s $7 billion contract to build the Taco Curtain between the US and Mexico has the same hands-off management approach as the Deep Water fiasco – relying on the contractor to plan, manage, and execute the project. Now is the time for the Committee of Government Reform, under the leadership of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to put the breaks on both deals, and renegotiate them in favor of the public interest.
Also see: Bush Buddy Benefits in Cutter Controversy