On Wednesday April 26, members of the West Chester community gathered at the Unitarian Fellowship Church to hear ordained Unitarian minister and whistleblower Marie deYoung speak about the motives behind questioned and unsupported costs in Iraq and Kosovo by Texas based contractor Halliburton.A native of Philadelphia, deYoung now resides in Lansdowne, Penn., where she is adamantly focused on letting the American public know about overspending in Iraq and the effect that it has had on communities similar to West Chester. According to deYoung, the first female chaplain of several combat units, the Texas based defense contractor has accumulated bills containing more than $1.4 billion in ‘questionable’ charges. “It is an absolute shock to me that we don’t dare ever talk to auditors,” said deYoung.
Founded in 1919, Halliburton is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the oil and gas industries, employing more than 100,000 people in over 120 countries. According to deYoung, Halliburton has received billions in ‘cost-plus’ contracts through its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). KBR currently employs more than 60,000 people in 43 countries.
“I really did believe contracts were for the good of the soldiers,” said deYoung. According to deYoung, due to the fact that Halliburton is KBR’s parent company, Halliburton is profiting whenever KBR is. In a situation like this one, a company can ultimately get paid for the work that it does, and also receive an additional monetary bonus for the money it spends.
“Media coverage concerning this issue has not been wide spread,” said deYoung. In an attempt to shed light upon taxpayers in 2004, deYoung testified before the House Committee on Government Reform. In her testimony, deYoung cited money wasted on laundry facilities, as well as overpriced hotel suites for contract workers. “It is an outrage to soldiers families and taxpayers that soldiers are sleeping in tents and contractors are in five star hotels,” deYoung said Wednesday night.
In 2002, deYoung was hired to monitor subcontracts for KBR in Kuwait, where she soon discovered that large portions of the money spent was not on the behalf of the soldiers, but to ensure comfortable living situations for the contractors. “My job is to clean up contracts,”said deYoung. There is nothing wrong with earning a living, but to do price gauging and take advantage of a situation is wrong.”
deYoung is currently running for state representative in Lansdowne, where she hopes her Adopt-a-Line-Item initiative will push Philadelphians to demand that money be used on improving the education system, rather than on overpriced laundry bills and extravagant hotel suites. “Everyone must vote and contact government officials,” said deYoung, “We have to get the information out so we are empowered to do something.