There are several scams going on in Iraq, which waste billions in US taxpayer dollars. Not many people appear to be aware of them, so I will list them here, in no particular order.
Many of the services on Army bases (laundry, water sanitation, electrical power) are provided by American civilians, working for one of several contracting companies. KBR is the biggest company. Kellog, Brown, & Root is a subdivision of Halliburton.
Meet Steve. Steve does laundry. Steve can wear what he wants, works a 12-hour shift, and goes home to Georgia on vacation every couple of months. Steve lives for free on the base and eats sumptuous meals in the dining hall every day, no charge. Steve's security and transportation are provided by Army machine gunners and Army helicopters.
Steve receives $120,000 a year tax-free.
Meet Joe. He is a Private First Class in the US Army. Joe gets told what to wear, when to sleep (6 hours a night at most), and how to shave. Joe pulls guard-duty shifts for hours at a time in guard towers around the base. Joe belongs to a platoon that does patrols in the nearby city at all hours of the day & night, braving frequent car bombs, road bombs, and grenade attacks.
Joe’s base pay is $22,400 a year.
Check out what these other contractors make.
Air conditioner technician: $140,000/yr
Office Clerk: $90,000/yr
The Army doesn't like to sit still. During a long occupation, the various branches in the army often finding themselves casting about for something meaningful to do, something to justify their existence, something they can tabulate and gage and put in a PowerPoint presentation for their superiors.
Thus was born the "Micro-grant" program.
It goes something like this: Army units rotate in and out of Iraq too quickly to actually follow up on any long-term construction projects (This is why we haven't been able to improve the infrastructure here in 6 years. No joke - nowhere in Iraq do the people have water, electricity, and sewage at a level comparable to before the invasion). Plus we're warriors, not project managers.
So in lieu of actually managing projects to make sure they get completed, the Army gives out cold hard cash to any Iraqi who can sign their name on a piece of paper.
Iraqi Receiving a Ton of Cash for Nothing
This is called a "micro-grant" and is supposed to help locals start small businesses.
But there is no follow-up on micro-grant recipients, no gage or measure of effectiveness, no chamber of commerce to help them along. It is essentially a big cash give-away of US dollars to private Iraqi citizens.
The typical micro-grant totals anywhere from $2000-$10,000, and my current battalion processes a couple of dozen micro-grants a month. It takes an Iraqi about 2 weeks to get their micro-grant money after filling out the required paperwork.
It took my soldier PFC McGarry 8 months of repeatedly lost paperwork, bureaucratic red-tape, and stonewalling to finally get awarded his enlistment bonus of $3500.
MRAP by International, Called the "MaxPro-Plus"
When we go on patrols, we drive around in armored vehicles, naturally. The army developed a couple of armored versions of the Humvee (designated the M1114 & the M1151) to protect occupants from roadside bombs and thrown grenades and such.
These armored Humvees cost under $200,000 and protect their occupants from all but the biggest roadside bombs. They also do not provide protection from armor-piercing bombs, known as EFP's (Explosively Formed Projectiles, Iranian-made super-bombs that can pierce just about any armor we have).
Since roadside bombs have caused most of the casualties in Iraq, the Army wanted to improve the protection afforded these soldiers. Thus, the army has slowly replaced the armored humvees with MRAP's, Mine Resistant Armored Personnel vehicles.
MRAP Called the "RG-33"
MRAP's are designed with a V-shaped hull and lots of armor to deflect blasts from underneath. They work really well, and conventional roadside bombs haven't really killed anyone in an MRAP. An EFP, however, will still punch right through an MRAP and kill whoever is inside. This happened frequently in Sadr City when I was there last autumn.
A typical MRAP costs $1.2 to 1.8 million dollars EACH. So you might say "hey, it's worth the extra cost to protect our soldiers" which is undoubtedly true, but check this out: Iraqis are not a terribly dogmatic bunch - they will basically do whatever their sheikh or immediate supervisor tells them to do. It was proven during the "Surge" of 2006/2007 that the terrorists can be bought off en masse, and violence will drop. Iraqis just want a paycheck, whether it comes from the government, a terrorist organization, or a factory where they work (too bad there are so few factories in Iraq).
General Petraeus started the Awakening Program to essentially give all those unemployed Sunni Arab males who were taking money from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, a paycheck for keeping the peace instead. And Voila! Violence dropped precipitously.
So what does this have to do with MRAP's?
This: if we had understood the Iraqi mindset back in 2003, the obvious solution to the country's troubles would have been a handful of massive, shovel-ready infrastructure projects that would have employed all those disgruntled villagers and improved the country at the same time.
But the US Army doesn't get "nation building". The US Army is designed to destroy other armies, and thinks of everything in terms of armor, weapons, enemies, and PowerPoint. So the whole MRAP program spends billions of dollars on these behemoth trucks, when for the price of one of them, would-be insurgents could be put to peaceful work that would benefit their country.