Expanding the US global military presence is costly to taxpayers but highly profitable for private military contractors. Even the costs of allegedly temporary facilities and deployments have been substantial: Many of the new bases include bowling allies, swimming pools, air-conditioned quarters, elaborate communications systems and other features that make them seem more like small, self-contained towns than transient setups.
Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Vice President Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, has been contracted to provide comprehensive logistical support for US bases in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere in the region. The company’s services are likely to be expensive: When Brown & Root was hired to provide similar services for Camp Bondsteel, the major US base camp in Kosovo, it ended up ringing up a record $2.2 billion in costs while wasting millions of dollars on excess purchases of everything from furniture to electric power. Brown & Root also has a Pentagon contract that could yield up to $300 million over a five-year period to maintain and expand the US military prison for “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
While a full-scale war in Iraq will redound most heavily to the benefit of major weapons makers like Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which will get the contracts for precision bombs, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that will be used in the conflict, lesser-known firms are already profiting from the expanding US global presence. In August, Maersk Lines of Norfolk, Virginia, received a contract for $219 million from the Pentagon’s Military Sealift Command to provide eight “roll-on, roll-off” cargo ships to operate in the Indian Ocean near the Diego Garcia base; in May DG-21, a Dallas-based firm, received a $20 million add-on to a $200 million “base operating support contract” for work at Diego Garcia.