How A $2M Contract Cost Taxpayers $124M
CBS News
June 28, 2007

How does a $2 million project end up costing the government $124 million? Just ask the Department of Homeland Security.

It all started in May 2003, according to a front-page story in the Washington Post, when the newly created department awarded a no-bid contract to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to help it get its intelligence operation up and running.

Payments to the firm, one of the country's biggest government contractors, soared by millions of dollars a month, the Post says, reaching $30 million, or 15 times the contract's original value, by December 2004. At that point, DHS lawyers warned that the deal had gone "grossly beyond" estimates and advised the department to end the contract and allow other companies to bid for the work.

But it was more than a year before any competitive bidding took place. In the meantime, payments to Booz Allen more than doubled again, thanks to another no-bid deal, to $73 million. Finally, in spring 2006, DHS broke the work into five separate contracts, worth an additional $50 million, and solicited bids.

The winner of all five contracts? Booz Allen Hamilton.

How did it happen? The Post says the agency "routinely waived rules designed to protect taxpayer money" in its haste to meet congressional mandates. And as the work continued, DHS "became so dependent on Booz Allen that it lost the flexibility for a time to seek out other contractors or hire federal employees who might do the job for less."

A Surge In Iraqi Lobbyists

There appears to be at least one way the Iraqis have embraced U.S.-style democracy, reports USA Today.

Since the war began in 2003, the number of lobbyists promoting Iraqi interests in Washington has more than tripled.

Federal records show there are now 18 registered lobbyists and firms representing Iraqi clients in the U.S., up from five before the U.S-led invasion.

The clients include politicians or factions within Iraq's government, as well as the government itself, which has spent more than $13.4 million to lobby for a reduction in the country's foreign debt and on negotiations on fraud allegations involving the Oil-for-Food Program under Saddam.

The Bald Eagle Has Landed

The American bald eagle flies off the government's list of threatened and endangered species today after a four-decade campaign to resuscitate the national bird.

The Los Angeles Times notes on its front page that the "majestic raptor" has rebounded to more than 11,000 nesting pairs from a low of 417 in 1963.

But removing the birds from the protected list won't mean its open season on hunting them. The Washington Post says bald eagles will likely continue to enjoy most of the safeguards they do now, including federal bans on killing or harming them or disturbing their nests.

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