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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Who is gaining from Iraq War?

In a few weeks, Gen. David Petraeus and the Bush administration will report to Congress on the progress of the U.S. military's troop surge in Iraq.

But some of the war's winners are already clear: military contractors who supply everything from bodyguards to bombs, clean socks to ready-to-eat meals. "For the companies involved, this has been a real gravy train," says William Hartung, who tracks defense spending for the New America Foundation.

The White House has proposed military spending of $647 billion in 2008. Adjusted for inflation, that would be the highest level since World War II -- topping even expenditures during Vietnam and the Reagan years, calculates Hartung. The current request for Iraq-related spending for 2008 is $116 billion, which would raise total Iraq war spending to $567 billion.

Who's getting all that money? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell. "There isn't good visibility on where the money goes," says Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But you can get a snapshot of who's been getting a good chunk of the Iraq-related spending in two ways.

The first step is to scour a vast database of more than $400 billion in annual government contracts, more than 70% of which are from the Department of Defense. It's called the Federal Procurement Data System. I turned to a private contractor of my own, Eagle Eye, for some (free) expert assistance in navigating the database.

Eagle Eye mined the database for all Iraq-related contracts from 2003 through 2006 (the most recent year for which numbers are available). That catches everything from spending on base maintenance and bulletproof vests to ammo and combat boots. We tallied the numbers to find the top 10 companies out of thousands of contractors.

The second step is to look at the Pentagon's own budget to see which companies are building the major weapons systems that support the war in Iraq.

The Top 10
It's no surprise that KBR Inc. (KBR, news, msgs), a division of Halliburton (HAL, news, msgs) during the years we examined, tops the first list, compiled by Eagle Eye, with $17.2 billion in Iraq-related war revenue for 2003-2006. KBR is one of the largest construction and energy field-service companies in the world. It has a long history of collaborating with the U.S. government on war-related construction.

Videos: Recent news on Halliburton
In Iraq, KBR has been working on base construction and maintenance, oil-field repairs, infrastructure projects and logistics support. KBR got about a fifth of its revenue from the Iraq war in 2006, according to our calculations.

"We are proud to serve the troops," says a KBR spokeswoman. "We are providing the troops with essential services and the comforts of home that allow them to stay focused on the dangerous and important missions they face daily."

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