Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Thursday, July 17, 2003

The head of Bechtel's operation in Iraq talks about the job ahead.

Saboteurs continue to target the nation’s infrastructure, with the power sector a primary target of looters. Mumm says 13 towers of a 400-kv transmission line extending from Baghdad to the north were down when Bechtel crews first surveyed the line. Earlier this month, the number jumped to 65. Looters are "harvesting the copper" that they strip from the transmission lines.

This looting is not easy, says Mumm. Looters chop the wires by hand and burn off the insulation to obtain the copper. Several substations also have been destroyed.

Mumm says that "point security," which includes a barrier around a site or facility with a security guard, is helpful to secure a site. But looting and other damage tends to occur at facilities that cannot be protected by point security, such as transmission lines, or when work is finished and the security moves on.

Still, Bechtel is moving on a primary task of putting Iraqis back to work. Bechtel has teamed with the Iraq Housing Ministry to repair 1,400 schools and clinics before the start of the school year on Sept. 15. Workers are primarily patching walls and tiles and installing plumbing fixtures and ceiling fans, says Mumm. It’s not technical work but there is a lot of volume, he says. The damage was not a casualty of the war, but of looters afterward. "Schools were looted like everyplace else," he says.

Bechtel maintains now, as it did after receiving the rebuilding contract in April, that it intends to subcontract out about 90% of the work. "Our goal is to put the maximum amount of work with Iraqi contractors," Mumm says. This will help achieve the top USAID priority of getting the Iraqi economy back on track.

As of July 14, Bechtel has awarded 46 subcontracts, 16 of which went to 14 different Iraqi companies, according to Bechtel spokesman Howard N. Menaker. Bechtel regularly updates its subcontract award list, which can be viewed at https://supplier.bechtel.com/bni/usaid/PortalSubcList.xls.

< email | 7/17/2003 01:33:00 PM | link

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