"It's been almost 17 months since Hurricane Katrina pounded coastal Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana, and about a year since Congress authorized the bulk of its rebuilding aid for the region... But review of the devastated region shows that rebuilding is in a deep stall."
- The Wall Street Journal
When I read the above quote in Saturday's WSJ I was immediately reminded of news media coverage of the rebuilding of Iraq and how Haliburton was screwing everything up. Here we have major problems in spending money to rebuild a devastated area in the United States. Imagine the difficulties in spending the same money under Congressional rules, oversight and "gotcha" media coverage in the middle of a combat zone.
In my civilian job I work for the Florida State Emergency Response Team, the best state team in the nation (we're not smarter than everyone else, we just have had more practice). The Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Craig Fugate, has said on many occasions that emergency responses can be performed cheaply, efficiently or quickly. You must pick one of these three choices to perform your response. In Florida we respond quickly, because that is what our citizens want. This type of response is neither cheap nor efficient.
In Iraq in 2003 we were also looking for a quick response to the problems we were encountering. We felt that people were dying because we weren't spending money fast enough but the federal bean counters showed up to slow us down and protect the taxpayers dollar. I remember, at the time (November 2003), asking myself: How in the hell are these Iraqi contractors going to figure out the U.S. federal bidding system? I mean, they were requesting bids like they wanted these contractors to build a Post Office in Tallahassee, Florida. It was insane.
I was ready to accept inefficiency in the allocation of contracts in order to gain speed. What I wasn't ready to accept, and what shocked me when I found out, is that some of my coworkers (some even Army officers) were stealing for their personal gain. Inefficiency - yes, stealing - no.