Feeding Those Who Serve

Feeding Those Who Serve
January 28th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Feeding Those Who Serve

Feeding Those Who Serve
Washington Post
January 28, 2008
Pg. 19
Fine Print
By Walter Pincus
How much does it cost each year to provide our military and associated government personnel the food -- much of it imported from the United States -- that is served to them in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan?
Roughly $1.6 billion, according to the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia. That figure was published last week as part of a solicitation for a "prime vendor" responsible for the supply and delivery of perishables and semi-perishables in those countries for the next two years.
The foods include fish, meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and dairy and ice cream products, as well as bakery goods and juice for the mess halls and dining facilities serving military and other "federally funded customers" in those countries.
Much of the food is frozen because only limited amounts are bought at local markets, and almost none in Iraq. Also included in the mix will be packaged foods provided by the U.S. government, described in the solicitation as "Unitized Group Rations, Meals Ready to Eat, Health and Comfort packs and other operational items."
Delivery will be established at military bases on land or aboard ships, at mobile tent facilities in the field and at military training exercise locations.
The proposal divides the contract into food deliveries in two zones. The much larger one includes Kuwait and northern, central and southern portions of Iraq, including Baghdad, where delivery will originate in Kuwait or Turkey. Food for the second zone, which includes the west-central portions of Iraq -- particularly Anbar province -- and Jordan, will come via routes that start in Jordan.
According to the government documents, the estimated value of the first zone contract is $1.3 billion annually; the second is put at $264 million per year. Since the contract is to run for two years and will include two possible extensions, each for two more years, the estimated value of the deal is $9.4 billion, according to the proposal.
A Kuwaiti company, Public Warehousing Co. (PWC), has held the "prime vendor" contract since 2003. Its managing director is a member of the financially powerful Sultan al-Essa family. Another member of the family is chairman and managing director of the board of the National Real Estate Company of Kuwait, PWC's largest stockholder.
PWC last won renewal of the "prime vendor" food contract for the 18 months that began in December 2005. The agreement also covered Bahrain and Qatar, and was valued at $2.8 billion a year.
In the years that PWC has held the contract, more than 30 employees have been killed and 200 injured "carrying out the extremely dangerous work of providing food for U.S. troops in a war zone," the company said in a statement released in October.
One reason that the United States has not exercised extension options in the 2005 contract, which could have run through 2009, may be that federal prosecutors are looking at whether PWC received kickbacks from food vendors. PWC maintains that the payments were legitimate discounts.
In a quarterly financial report on its Web site, PWC said: "The U.S. government is seeking information relative to allegations of possible false claims, security and kickbacks associated with the [prime vendor] contract." It added that PWC had produced "several hundred thousand records responsive to the request" and that as of Sept. 30, 2007, the company had not been given notice that it or its employees were targets of the inquiry.
One seller to PWC was the Sultan Center, one of Kuwait's largest suppliers of food items. The Sultan Center is also managed by a member of the Sultan al-Essa family who, with other family members, controls about 40 percent of the company stock. The Sultan Center owns 30 percent of the National Real Estate Company, which means it holds a minority interest in PWC.
The company has sought to defend itself against allegations, reported in the Wall Street Journal, that prosecutors are looking into the overlapping ownership. Discounts from the Sultan Center would not be allowed if the companies have common ownership.
Asked if PWC will compete to retain the contract, Dale Leibach, a spokesman for the Kuwaiti firm, said: "It is company policy not to comment publicly on pending solicitations for which it might compete." But he added that PWC hopes to keep working for the U.S. military in the Middle East.
National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should.

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