Don't trust Army Corps of Engineers

SUBHEAD: This kind of waste erodes trust in our government and makes our already difficult fiscal situation that much worse. By Juan Wilson on 6 October 2011 for Island Breath - ( Image above: Surf crashes on revetment wall along Kuamualii Highway near west of Catholic church in Kekaha. From ( If you remember back to the analysis of damage caused by hurricane Katrina when it hit New Orleans you probably recall that major factors for the failure of the levees and the subsequent flooding that killed almost 2000 people and did over $80 billion in property damage was laid at the feet of the Army Corp of Engineers. First - they cut the wetlands to the south of the city into ribbons by slicing channels for large vessels that wanted shortcuts to the gulf waters. These water highways eroded the grassland and marshes that buffered the mainland from storm surges. These wetlands have been a living filter protecting both the gulf and the city. They were critically damaged by the projects of the Army Corps. Second - the Corps badly designed and under maintained the levees that were needed to protect parts of the city most likely to be flooded when a storm surge from the gulf, or high water from the Mississippi came. Those lowest lying areas where the dykes were, of course, were where the poorest people (read black) lived. Here on Kauai they have been busy and have plans. I am most familiar with their efforts to "improve" the Hanapepe River Levee system. I live inside the protection of that levee on the west side of the river. My conclusion after watching the efforts since 2006 to improve the system is that the Army Corps of Engineers is a mechanistic and unimaginative design and build contracting outfit with the power of god and little care about the environment of the people that live in the path of their work. They don't get the living system here, and don't care about it. They have insisted that all living grass, plants and trees be stripped from the levee (since 2006). The Kauai County Public Works were the Corps army in the field enlisted to do the work. They employed chainsaws and backhoes and pesticides. They would spray Round-Up at 7am within 25ft of residents asleep in their beds. At least two women were badly affected by the poison gases. One suffered an asthmatic attack and could not breathe afterwards. She was in her 70's. The other was pregnant in her 20's and became ill. She miscarried within 48 hours. At a recent meeting in Hanapepe the Army Corps informed the community of the timeline for their project. I won't go into the details but they are horrible. I asked the Corps representative from Honolulu what research they had done on the best species of grasses and plants that could be placed on the sides of the levee once rebuilt. He didn't have a clue nor did he know of anyone who did. I'd rather live with no flood insurance and no levee and take a chance with the ebb and flow of nature like people did here before 1965. Has anyone noticed that since the Army Corps has been involved with "saving" Kekaha's small boat harbor and beaches that the erosion there seems to have accelerated?
Staggering Army Corps Fraud By John Rudolf on 5 October 2011 for Huffington Post - ( Image above: The Army Corps idea of a shoreline along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, after hurricane Katrina. From (

Two senior employees at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bilked the government out of $20 million through a "brazen" bribery and kickback scheme, federal prosecutors charged Tuesday afternoon.

Prosecutors identified the mastermind of the scheme as Kerry F. Khan, 53, of Alexandria, Va., a program manager at the Army Corps' Washington, D.C., headquarters. According to the 42-page indictment, Khan controlled a dizzying array of shell companies, which were used to mask millions of dollars being skimmed off inflated federal contracts paid to a Dulles, Va., technology firm.

Khan, who is charged with bribery, money laundering and wire fraud, pocketed roughly $18 million from the scheme over four years, prosecutors said. He allegedly spent the money on Rolex watches, BMW sports cars, designer clothes, first-class travel and properties around the globe.

The fraud was "staggering in scope," said Ronald Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, at a news conference announcing the arrests.

"This indictment alleges one of the most brazen corruption schemes in the history of federal contracting," Machen said.

Harold F. Babb, the contracts director at Virginia tech firm EyakTek, was also charged with multiple felonies, along with Michael A. Alexander, a program director at the Army Corps, and Lee A. Khan, Kerry Khan's son, who controlled a consulting company allegedly involved in the scheme. The four men were arraigned in federal district court in Washington, D.C., where their lawyers entered pleas of not guilty to all charges.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday to determine whether the men will be detained until trial, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors called the men a flight risk.

As outlined in the indictment, the fraud scheme was simple enough, if breathtaking in scope. It began with a $1 billion Army Corps contract awarded to EyakTek, which subcontracted work out to another, unnamed Virginia tech firm. In a conspiracy with employees at the two companies, Kerry Khan and Alexander, who oversaw the contract, added millions of dollars in phony expenses to invoices sent to the government. Those funds were then allegedly skimmed from checks paid out by the agency and funneled back to the conspirators through a series of shell companies.

When arrested, the conspirators were planning a similar scheme, prosecutors said. According to recorded conversations and intercepted emails, the men were attempting to steer a $780 million technology contract to the unnamed Virginia technology firm, which could also be skimmed for profit. The only major hurdle would be clearing a government selection committee.

"Our biggest thing is being able to stack the board," Babb said during a March 2011 meeting with an unindicted co-conspirator, according to the indictment. "That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to stack it in our favor."

On Wednesday, several leading Democrats in Congress called on the Pentagon to improve the oversight of its more than $600 billion annual budget.

In a letter sent to Ashton Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called the latest scam part of an ongoing pattern of fraud and waste that has drained billions of dollars from federal coffers. In particular, she pointed to a September report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting that found up to $60 billion lost to contract waste and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We cannot allow this kind of fraud to run unchecked," Shaheen said. "This kind of waste erodes trust in our government and makes our already difficult fiscal situation that much worse."


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