Faithful readers of NewsBusters are quite aware of the ever-changing opinion of the Army Corps of Engineers by America’s Old Grey Lady, the New York Times. As reported here and here, the Times for more than a decade has had a very negative view of the Corps. They have questioned the value of its work, its accounting practices, and the environmental impact of its projects.
However, in the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina, the Times mysteriously reversed this view without any explanation, and began suggesting that if President Bush had fully funded the Corps, the levees in New Orleans would not have failed.
Having suggested just weeks ago that the Corps should have been basically given a blank-check for its services, the Times published an article today by Eric Lipton and Ron Nixon wherein it has reverted to its pre-Katrina view that the Corps wastes taxpayer money:
“Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high.”
“While several federal agencies have approved contracts, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, by design, have spent the most so far, according to the list of contracts from federal government agencies assembled by The New York Times.”
“The two most expensive services the government has signed contracts for so far are manufactured housing and debris removal, which alone have totaled $2 billion, according to contracting records.
“The debris contracts have attracted the scrutiny of investigators from the House Homeland Security Committee, in part because of the price agreed to by the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Of course, no mainstream media report on this subject would be complete without mentioning one of their favorite targets:
“Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.”
And, the pet phrase “no bid contract” is also always lurking in such reports:
“More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.”
I guess in the Times’ view, with all that poisonous water throughout devastated New Orleans, along with more hurricanes on the way, it would have made more sense for the federal government to have gone through a long bidding process that could have taken weeks rather than identifying appropriate and reliable contractors to get the job done as expeditiously as possible.
Of course, regardless of this renewed finger-pointing at the Army Corps of Engineers, it seems to be a metaphysical certitude that if another hurricane demolishes a city in this country the next two and a quarter years, and the Corps was in any way involved in construction projects in that region, the Times will again change its view, and blame the president for not giving the Corps more money.
Below is a graphic created by the Times demonstrating where Katrina-funds have already been allocated:
(Picture from AP)