Sunday, August 16, 2009

Only 3 of 13 Reconstruction Contracts Were Signed Before War

The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) was a last minute addition to the already chaotic post-war planning within the Bush Administration. Donald Rumsfeld decided he wanted control over the process so he ordered the creation of the ORHA. They only had 56 days before the invasion to get a staff together, go through strategies, and create a plan for Iraq. Many thought it was a mission impossible because of the lack of time. Retired General Jay Garner didn’t seem to think so in an October 2003 interview with PBS’ Frontline, but he did say that the rushed time frame they were working under meant that only three of the thirteen planned reconstruction contracts were signed before the war. The largest deal was with Bechtel for $1.03 billion to work on everything from electricity to water, to airports to telephones to transportation. That wasn’t finalized until April 17, 2003, its personnel didn’t enter Iraq until May, and then it was asked to do an assessment of Iraq's infrastructure before any real work started in September. Many of the ten other ORHA contracts weren’t singed until May and took 30-70 days to become operational. Garner said it would’ve been better to have all these deals done beforehand and have the contractors go in immediately after the war was over, but that was not possible because the ORHA was set up so late in the game. He also mentioned that the Bush administration didn’t want to sign any major deals because it had not publicly said that it was going to war yet, and that would’ve created a public relations problem.

After the war many of Iraq’s services, especially in the capital collapsed. That was one of the major early complaints about the U.S. occupation, and the fact that so many contracts were not even signed meant there was a long delay before any work even started on Iraq’s infrastructure. This was one of many examples of how the White House did not adequately plan for the post-war situation. The military side was the priority, and the aftermath was not considered a big deal since the administration believed in a best-case scenario.

SOURCES

Baker, David, “Bechtel under siege,” San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/03

PBS Frontline, “Interview Gen. Jay Garner,” Truth, War and Consequences, 10/9/03

Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

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