Debate needed about Bush-Cheney push to outsource government

Tue, 03/13/2007 - 4:15pm
By: Letters to the ...

Much has been, and will continue to be, written about the “new direction” in Iraq, the “surge” in the commitment of 21,500 additional combat troops into Baghdad and Anbar Province.

The old commanders, Generals Abizaid and Casey, are out and the new leadership team of General Petreaus and Admiral Fallon is in.

They have one tremendous challenge in attempting to “referee” what is basically a multi-faceted civil war while shoring up Iraqi economic and political systems which, at best, can only be described as marginally effective or internally supported.

Gen. Petreaus, in particular, has been referred to by President Bush as the most qualified man in the entire armed forces to lead what can only be described as a Herculean challenge; by all accounts, the opinion of President Bush is shared by virtually every individual with whom Gen. Petreaus has come into contact.

One can only hope that, although the situation in Iraq is described by the majority of observers as being beyond salvation, under the leadership of Gen. Petreaus the “surge” will succeed, some semblance of order will be established, Iraq will survive as an independent and sovereign nation, allied with the United States, and the vast majority of U.S. troops will depart within a year with a minimum of additional casualties.

But while the “surge” noted above has received widespread reporting and continuing discussion there is another ”surge” which is far less reported, insidious and only now, unfortunately, coming to the public’s attention. That is the “surge” under the Bush/Cheney administration of attempting to outsource virtually every aspect of government.

What is outsourcing? Well, under Bush/Cheney it involves turning over to the private sector those functions of government operations which have historically been done by government employees, be they the traditional civilian work force or the military.

Until the past week, the most grievous misuse of Bush/Cheney outsourcing (BCO) has been the utilization of approximately 100,000 civilian contractors, many non-American, in Iraq. Many of the contracts involved were of the no-bid or single source variety.

How much these employees actually cost, under whose supervision they work, and what is the profit margin of the contracting companies are all somewhat of a mystery. What can be said is that they earn far more in recompense than the American uniformed personnel next to whom they work and whom they support.

But this is only the most obvious example of BCO. We are using civilian contractors to interrogate prisoners and provide personal security for high interest government officials, both U.S. and Iraqi.

On the domestic side and unrelated to Iraq and Afghanistan,the Bush/Cheney team has additionally “outsourced” the Medicare prescription drug program, by having it basically administered by private insurance companies, at a cost which will not truly be revealed for years to come.

Bush/Cheney undoubtedly has as their ultimate aim the “outsourcing” and eventual privatizing of the Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare programs.

Now, there may be many individuals who feel that maybe these programs should be privatized (“outsourced”) and there is no doubt that a broad based dialogue/debate would be of benefit as to just what direction to take as to their future.

But, although there may be room to debate the impact and effectiveness of the above BCO, what should cause not only concern, but outrage, is the “outsourcing” of follow-up medical care to returning casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan.

What is not being debated is the outstanding quality of the immediate medical treatment being provided, but the outsourcing of the administration of follow-up medical care, not only at the Walter Reed Medical Center, but, as of today, an unknown number of additional U.S. military care facilities.

What was the Bush/Cheney rationale for reducing (“outsourcing”) the number of experienced and fully competent government civilian medical administrators at Walter Reed? It has obviously not led to an improvement in follow-up medical care — just the opposite!

Just who provided the impetus for the change? What is the relationship of the new public sector provider (contractor) to the administration?

Regardless of how these queries are answered there is one obvious conclusion to be drawn: To this administration “Support the Troops” takes second place to “Support the Private Sector/Party Contributors.” And this from an administration which trumpeted their management style.

After their mismanagement of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina, the expose of the scandal involving a total lack of administration oversight of the care of our wounded warriors adds yet another damning chapter to an expanding, but unfortunately, Kafka-like novel.

Wade J. Williams
Colonel, USA (Ret)
Peachtree City, Ga.

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