The Iraq war is many things to different people. It is called a strategic blunder and a monstrous injustice and sometimes even a patriotic mission, much to the chagrin of rational human beings. For many big companies, however, the war is something far different: a lucrative cash-cow. The years-long, ongoing military effort has resurrected fears of the so-called “military-industrial complex.” Media pundits are outraged at private companies scooping up huge, no-questions-asked contracts to manufacture weapons, rebuild infrastructure, or anything else the government deems necessary to win (or plant its flag in Iraq). No matter what your stance on the war, it pays to know where your tax dollars are being spent.
Following is a detailed rundown of the 25 companies squeezing the most profit from this controversial conflict.
The first name that comes to everyone’s mind here is Halliburton. According to MSN Money, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003-2006 alone. This is estimated to comprise a whopping one-fifth of KBR’s total revenue for the 2006 fiscal year. The massive payoff is said to have financed the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects across the war-torn nation. This is just the latest in a long string of military/KBR wartime partnerships, thanks in no small part to Dick Cheney’s former role with the parent company.
2. Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp
At first blush, a private equity fund (and not, say, Exxon-Mobil) being the number 2 profiteer in the Iraq war might sound strange. However, the cleverly run fund has raked in $1.44 billion through its DynCorp subsidiary. The primary service DynCorp has provided to the war efforts is the training of new Iraqi police forces. Often described as a ‘state within a state‘, the sizable company is headed by Dwight M. Williams, former Chief Security Officer of the upstart U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With this and other close ties to defense agencies, Veritas Capital Fund and DynCorp are well-positioned to capitalize on Iraq even more.
3. Washington Group International
The Washington Group International has parlayed its expertise the repair, restore, and maintenance of high-output oil fields into $931 million in Iraq-related revenue from 2003-2006. The publicly traded 25,000 employee company’s other specialties include the building and maintenance of schools, military bases, and municipal utilities, such as watering systems. Some have complained that Washington Group’s hefty government payoffs have served primarily to raise its trading price on the New York Stock Exchange. One thing is for sure – with oil prices continuing to rise, there will be no shortage of demand for the oil protection services Washington Group International brings to bear.
4. Environmental Chemical
All war zones eventually becomes cluttered with spent ammunition and broken/abandoned weapons, creating a lucrative niche for any company willing to clean it all up. In Iraq, this duty has fallen into the hands of Environmental Chemical. The privately held Burlingame, California company has stockpiled $878 million by the end of fiscal 2006 for munitions disposal, calling upon its “decade of experience planning and conducting UXO removal, investigation, and certification activities.” The company has close ties to several defense agencies and is staffed by graduates of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Schools, as well as the U.S. Army’s Chemical Schools at Anniston.
Aegis has done the United Kingdom proud after reeling in a contract to coordinate all of Iraq’s private security operations. The Pentagon contract is good for $430 million (incredibly lucrative by any standard) but it has landed Aegis in some hot public relations water. The company’s decision to contribute to Iraq war efforts has lead to a rejected membership application from the International Peace Operations Association. According to The Independent, the influential trade organization does not consider Aegis worthy of inclusion in the “peace and stability industry.” It remains to be seen whether Aegis will continue to be ostracized for participating in the training of Iraqi security forces.