WASHINGTON - A contractor providing services to the
U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan has committed serious violations
of its contract, mainly byconducting inadequate inspections of electrical wiring and grounding at American bases, according to Pentagon sources.
Pentagon findings on Houston, Texas-based KBR stem from the widely
publicized death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a highly decorated 24-year-old
Green Beret from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Maseth was electrocuted
while taking a shower at his base in Baghdad.
His January 2 death
was just one of many deaths now believed to be linked to shoddy
electrical work done at U.S. bases, managed by U.S. contractors,
according to Pentagon sources.
The Pentagon's Defense Contract
Management Agency recently gave KBR a "Level III Corrective Action
Request" -- issued only when a contractor is found in "serious
noncompliance" and just one step below the possibility of suspending or
terminating a contract, Pentagon officials said.
KBR's case, it means that the contractor's inspections and efforts to
ensure electrical safety for troops have been unacceptable, and must be
significantly improved, Pentagon sources told CNN.
Just after Maseth's electrocution, Pentagon officials estimated that about a dozen troops had been electrocuted in Iraq.
But Pentagon officials now say at least 18 troops have been
electrocuted since 2003 -- many due to faulty wiring and improper
The number could be higher than that when Afghanistan is included, say congressional sources.
can't make sense around Ryan's death, that he died like that, that he
was so trained. So highly trained to survive," said Maseth's mother,
Cheryl Harris, in an interview earlier this year. "It just feels so
surreal. It's so painful to think about how he died."
because of Harris' efforts to demand answers about her son's death, the
U.S. Senate and House have held oversight hearings in recent months in
hopes of finding out how the electrocutions occurred.
that there's an assessment made at this level -- a level three -- which
is very serious, indicates to me, and to a lot of people, how serious
this problem is," said Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pennsylvania.
really a question in the end about justice. The only way we can have
justice in a case like this for the families and for the American
people is to have serious accountability. That has not happened yet.
There's still a lot of parties here that have not been held to account
for what happened here," Casey said.
Danielle Brian, the
executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a
Washington-based watchdog group, said accountability is needed, but
difficult to come by when KBR's contract is so integral to the Iraq war.
problem, of course, is it's such a big contract," Brian said. "The
government's in a place -- the Pentagon's in a place where they say,
'How can we suspend KBR? They're sort of running the show over there.' "
"It's so big -- it's too big to cancel that contract or suspend them from future contracts," she added.
said the action against KBR amounts to "nothing more than a slap on the
wrist" for a company with an estimated $24 billion contract for its
work in Iraq. She pointed out that KBR's government contract is paid
for by U.S. taxpayers.
"I think the public should demand that the
government generally hold its contractors accountable, and remind the
government this is our money -- we don't want our money spent this
way," Brian said. "We want to make sure that if our money is being used
to hire contractors in Iraq, that it is being spent well and that it's
protecting our troops."
Since CNN first reported the story about
Maseth's death last spring, the network has repeatedly asked the
Pentagon and its contract agency for an interview. They have never
agreed to an interview to answer questions about Maseth's death or
other similar cases.
KBR declined comment for this story, but earlier told CNN it found no link between its work and the reported electrocutions.
company's contract in Iraq is vast and encompasses numerous
responsibilities that vary from one location to another, ranging from
the upkeep of U.S. bases there to providing most of the basic services
on the bases. All of the 18 electrocutions occurred in different places
and under different circumstances.
There are at least two
lawsuits now against KBR, including one by Maseth's family, and they
are trying to determine precisely what role, if any, KBR played in the
specific circumstances that led to those deaths.
"I want KBR to
be exposed. More than anything, I just want them to step up and take
care of what they're being paid to take care of, and to do the work
that they are contracted to do. More than anything, let's put the
security and the safety of our troops first," Harris said. Watch Maseth's mother discuss the case »
officials told CNN that KBR's initial corrective efforts have not been
sufficient. KBR will now have to come up with a corrective plan that is
acceptable to the Pentagon. The company could still receive fines or
So far, the company has not been held responsible in any of the deaths. The company has denied liability in the lawsuits.