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(UPDATED) Shooting yourself in the foot over and over and over again
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, September 28, 2006

One of the portions of the poll about Iraq I didn't really touch on was the perception of Iraqis toward non-military forms of involvement in Iraq. On the whole a majority of Iraqis are for it. But:
Majorities still approve of the US training Iraqi security forces and helping with community development, though most of these feel the US is doing a poor job.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement is it? Well here is an example of why they feel that way:
A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country — and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."
I don't know about you but that makes my blood boil.

And to add more heat to my boiling blood, this isn't the work of some shady fly-by night contractor with connections (well the contractor may have been, but not the project manager), it is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project.
Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.
This is inexcusable and heads should roll. But it seems that never happens in many of these scenarios for whatever reason. And, as you can imagine, when there is no penalty for things like this, they continue to happen.

The US Army Corps of Engineers used to have a good reputation. Then came Katrina. Now Iraq. Someone has some explaining to do. And I'd prefer they did it in a court room or a jail cell.
"This facility has definitely been a top priority," Lt. Col. Joel Holtrop of the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division Project and Contracting Office said in a July news release. "It's a very exciting time as the cadets move into the new structures."
Maybe it would be fitting to have LTC Holtrop and his crew live in the facility for, oh, a couple of years, as see how "exciting" it all is.

UPDATE: Here's a copy of the report rendered on the project by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstrution.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

To be fair McQ this is the first project I’ve heard of in Iraq in a VERY LONG TIME...I guess my point would be, Beware Cherry-Picking. The Baghdad Police College is HORRID, ok, that’s one project out many? And how many are failures like this? A data base of one is meaningless...I know you know that, but still be fore we all unload on the "failed" Reconstruction of Iraq or the like, we might want a more detailed and statistical analysis of THAT Reconstruction.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
When reading such stories, I find myself questioning assessments that suggest that we have trained nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops. Here’s the problem. If we began our occupation of Iraq with less than 200,000 American soldiers and no Iraqi security forces and we now have nearly 300,000 Iraqi troops along with over 140,000 U.S. soldiers, why can’t we seem to bring order to the country and why does the death toll continue to alarm? Perhaps this story about the police academy, coupled with other failures, provides the answer to my question.

The Bush administration, under the guidance of Donald Rumsfeld, continues to ignore the realities being voiced by numerous former military officers and countless other war critics. It takes minimal analysis to posit that the lack of sufficient forces in the region also translates into a lack of supervision and oversight which then leads to these colossal failures.

Look, the reality is obvious...we have an administration that has miscalculated and mismanaged the Iraq war from the outset. There were no WMD’s, we were not greeted as liberators, we didn’t have a plan for securing the country once Hussein was toppled, we didn’t have enough troops to achieve our objectives, we are in the midst of a civil war, and we are fomenting more extremism. Sadly, the only constant remains the unequivocal denial exhibited by our President and his assemblage of neocon associates.

Read more here:
Written By: Daniel DiRito
Read the article Joe. And explain the Iraqi perception.

If they mismanaged what was considered one of the most high-profile projects in Iraq, why wouldn’t the assumption they do the same on lesser projects have any validity. The Iraqi perception that we do a "poor job" on these sorts of projects has come from somewhere, wouldn’t you say?
Written By: McQ
I saw another story today about this.

It said that the construction was done by the same company that did the imfamous "Big Dig" in Boston.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I read the article...and there is no statistical analysis of the reconstruction program. Is the College typical or ATYPCIAL of Iraq’s problems? I can’t tell from the article...Further is the flawed college of 2006 better or WORSE than the College of the 1930’s that was there? Did anyone ask would you rther be in this campus or the old one?

That’s my only point. I await further audits and stories. My belief will be UNLESS Parsons fails most of the audits, then no one will say sh*t about that but we will be left with THIS story. Good news is NOT news. But we’ll ahve to wait and see won’t we?
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Further is the flawed college of 2006 better or WORSE than the College of the 1930’s that was there?
Dunno, Joe, but tell me, is urine and feces dripping from your light fixtures acceptable in your house?

Written By: McQ
Perhaps this story about the police academy, coupled with other failures, provides the answer to my question.
No, it doesn’t.
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
McQ I don’t know, mayhap the OLD campus used outhouses next to their well? Something can be failing to meet ITS design spcifications and STILL be better than the thing it’s replacing.

Again a database of ONE is meaningless. I hope they audit, they can audit Parsons EVERY project. I will await the results of that audit...but on the basis of THIS sotry I can draw no larger conclusion and neither can YOU, McQ. My only point. You seem to want to.

Akin to the article on "Trophy." Which I read a blurb on today, as an aside. I don’t think Raytheon is going to sell a system either, as the Army doesn’t seem interested in the APS concept. That reminds me of this... is there really a larger story here or not? I don’t know.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Anyone who tries to portray this as an isolated incident has apparently been avoiding news reports of the audits on reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004. The audit uncovers problems in an area that includes half the land mass in Iraq, with new findings in the southern and central provinces of Anbar, Karbala, Najaf, Wasit, Babil, and Qadisiya. The special inspector reports to the secretary of defense and the secretary of state.

Agents from the inspector general’s office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general’s office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.
Written By: Geek, Esq.
URL: http://
YEs Geek and of the audited projects how many failed the grade?
...some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general’s office. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.
IMPLIES much but actually SAYS NOTHING..."Some cases" is that a minority a majority a plurality, what? Saying that there was waste, fraud, corruption and abuse in the reconstruction program is like saying that NYC has whores. Yes that’s a given, how extensive is the problem, is the question?
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Here you go, Joe:
Nearly $9 billion of money spent on Iraqi reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management, according to a watchdog report published Sunday.

An inspector general’s report said the U.S.-led administration that ran Iraq until June 2004 is unable to account for the funds.

"Severe inefficiencies and poor management" by the Coalition Provisional Authority has left auditors with no guarantee the money was properly used," the report said.

"The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that [Development Fund for Iraq] funds were used in a transparent manner," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

The $8.8 billion was reported to have been spent on salaries, operating and capital expenditures, and reconstruction projects between October 2003 and June 2004, Bowen’s report concluded.

The money came from revenues from the United Nations’ former oil-for-food program, oil sales and seized assets — all Iraqi money. The audit did not examine the use of U.S. funds appropriated for reconstruction. (Full story)

Auditors were unable to verify that the Iraqi money was spent for its intended purpose. In one case, they raised the possibility that thousands of "ghost employees" were on an unnamed ministry’s payroll.

"CPA staff identified at one ministry that although 8,206 guards were on the payroll, only 602 guards could be validated," the audit report states. "Consequently, there was no assurance funds were not provided for ghost employees."
Written By: Geek, Esq.
URL: http://
Good point, please note it was ALL IRAQI MONEY, of confiscated from the Iraqi people by their own government and hten released back into the economic eco-system.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Here’s an index to the Pentagon’s audit reports. It ain’t pretty.

Of course, keep in mind that the Bush administration’s sole criteria for selecting people to administer these programs was loyalty to . . . the Republican party.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration’s gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

And, in case you missed this:

Written By: Geek, Esq.
URL: http://
Anecdotally and purely as a subjective...

It seems the bigger/more important the project (Baghdad Police College, New Orleans dams), the more likely the Army Corps of Engineers or their subcontractors are to screw it up.

Fair assessment? Probably not at all.

But it’s sure the impression I’ve gotten over the years.
Written By: Dave
First off, I can’t believe I am responding to this. But I guess there is a time to stand up and be counted. Most of the comments I’ve seen here are looking for someone to blame for mistakes made. Having been at BPC (that’s the Baghdad Police College), I’ve seen first-hand the frustration that goes along with trying to accomplish a mission that so many in the US are down on. You might want to ask yourselves just how difficult a task it is to hire, train, equip and prepare 135,000 police in a foreign country as unstable as Iraq. This is a country with a history of tyranny and incredible atrocities that were committed for decades. Yet the people overwhelmingly supported the right to vote for a free and democratic way of life. Granted, they are still learning what democracy is all about, but they also believe it is the future of their country. The media would have you believe otherwise. Converting from an autocratic military regime that remained in power by intimidation, committing atrocities against their own people and outright genocide, to a democratic country struggling to defeat a very capable and dedicated insurgency, takes a little more than a few years. Some of the mistakes that have been made are the direct result of news media-generated public opinion that is speeding up a timetable in order to accomplish the withdrawal. BPC, and Baghdad in general, struggles with a number of issues not the least of which were long-term power outages, sanitation system failures and frequent insurgent attacks. I saw a number of good things happen while I was in Baghdad on a police training mission, very few of which were ever reported by the media. By the way, the media would have you believe these health and safety issues just popped up at BPC. They were being discussed in 2005 — before many of the facilities were built. One has to wonder how many of the problems were created by the refusal of many in our country to recognize and accept a realistic timetable for completion of the mission. Incidentally, I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in the contractor responsible for this project.
Written By: Rick
URL: http://
"Further is the flawed college of 2006 better or WORSE than the College of the 1930’s that was there?"
"McQ I don’t know, mayhap the OLD campus used outhouses next to their well? Something can be failing to meet ITS design spcifications and STILL be better than the thing it’s replacing."

Maybe it’s just me, but I would prefer urine and feces in an outhouse, rather than inhouse. I would prefer the risk of a contaminated well rather than watching feces drip fromn the ceiling into my morning cuppa.
"Of course, keep in mind that the Bush administration’s sole criteria for selecting people to administer these programs was loyalty to . . . the Republican party."

And do you really thin a Dem. administration would have done better? This is more an example of why government is not a particularly efficient way to do things.


anyway, I am sure that eventually some senior official will come out and say "I accept full responsibility for these mistakes...". Then he/she will go to their next meeting and we will all live happily ever after.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I suspect humans were involved in this particular snafu, as well as being involved in the other snafus mentioned in the comments.

As for Geek’s dragging Republican loyalty test criteria into the conversation, 1) "What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration" is what this story says (my emphasis), and 2) regardless of the anecdotes indicating some "connections" related hiring of the less experienced occurred (duh), one has to be infantile to think that loyalty couldn’t or shouldn’t be a criteria under the circumstances. It’s bad enough that "the not so best and bright" will bring their monkey wrenches to the enterprise (most of whom applied), "the best and brightest" would have wielded theirs to egotistical effect (many of whom did not apply), not to mention the continuing fiasco that would have been "storied" endlessly if a whole bunch of Democrats were there throwing monkey wrenches (most of whom, likely and rightly, could not be trusted). After all, the CPA was essentially a political enterprise, not a military one.

I read the report, which is here.


The report covers only the plumbing. I did not see any assessment comments on foundations or floors heaving. There were concerns offered on the load-bearing floors as a result of sanitary waste seepage into what would be concrete shrinkage cracks, though, on its face, seems overblown to me.

And I have to question a part of the report, itself. The traps shown as being the proper procedure in photo 22, to me seems to miss the likelihood that it shouldn’t be there in the first place, though I’ll add the caveat that international sanitary system design might be different than the US. Here in the US, we don’t put below-floor traps in waste lines, generally, except shower stalls and those should not be inaccessible but should have drain plugs. Sinks have individual traps below the fixture and watercloset and urinal traps are integral. (The reason I mention this is some of the trap locations shown as improper/proper are ones related to fecal/urine staining. So below-floor traps should not even exist in these cases. Main line sanitary piping doesn’t have traps for the unexpressed purpose of venting and not creating airlocks. In this specific photo 22, I can think of all sorts of design scenarios, none of which would allow this trap and cannot think of none where is should be there. That this got into the report without mention causes full loss of my confidence the inspector general’s office as well.

Lastly, the report notes the College was turned over to the Iraqi authorities in May 2006 and, it seems, opened for business. This report was prepared on the partly on the basis of a 22 August site visit. Photos show huge puddles of water on the floor in one room as well as dripping ceilings, etc., and the report indicates these were directly observed. So, I have to ask, who but ’half a brain tied behind their backs’ idiots would continue to operate with such conditions, leave such a condition for the such an extensive period of time, AND/OR reenact it for the purpose of preparing this report.

So, I’ll be disgusted across the board. But I won’t call it a disaster until I see the follow-up investigations and reports promised because there is nothing in this report on how many buildings are affected, whether allusions to load-bearing floor structural damage are accurate, and whether building foundation problems do actually exist. The WaPo story itself says the most serious problem is substandard plumbing. That is not true at all, per this:

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general’s office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Either, the WaPo’s assertion and the emphasis of the Inspector General’s report on substandard plumbing are both way off the important subject or DeShurley is a hack engineer.
Written By: Dusty
URL: http://
"cannot think of none" should be "can think of none" in the above, 6th paragraph, 2nd last sentence.
Written By: Dusty
URL: http://
There need to be broader lessons drawn from this debacle. If we all agree that the nation-building and civil-building side of this conflict has been unusually, even spectacularly, poorly done - why?

Not only that, it seems like, this example notwithstanding, the only effective projects completed anywhere were by the army. The contractors - so it seems - were a fiasco with far greater regularity than the USGov stuff.

Is anyone drawing lessons from this about the fundemantal lack of accountability of government contractors and private-sector-entities in these situations, relative to the accountability of civil-affairs divisions?

Or, is it only **this specific administration** that has done such a specifically horrific job at managing said contracts?

Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

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