Do not underestimate Army Corp of Engineers whistleblower Bunny Greenhouse. A stern, elegant woman who favors sprawling floral lapel pins, she could be mistaken for the schoolteacher she once was. And, don’t think that time and retirement have tempered Greenhouse. The woman who objected to no-bid contracts for Iraq War contractors still has something to say.
Tonight, Friday June 28, the CBS show “Whistleblowers” includes a segment on her story as part of the last episode of the season. The program also includes an interview with Michael D. Kohn, a board member of the National Whistleblower Center and one of Greenhouse’s lawyers.
“I never considered myself as a whistleblower,” she tells host Alex Ferrer. “I was doing the work I had taken the oath of office to do. But I still became the skunk in the park.”
Bunnatine Greenhouse was in charge of procurement for the Army Corps of Engineers and she took her job seriously. In 2003, she objected to a secret, no-bid contract guaranteeing Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, billions of dollars for services related to the invasion of Iraq. Unsatisfied with the response to questions she raised, she took her concerns to Congress in 2005. Thus began a long battle between Greenhouse and the Corps. She was demoted, her glowing job evaluations turned sour and she was sidelined.
Still, she tells Ferrer: “I learned to not let fear paralyze me.”
She testified several times before Congress, including in 2007, when she talked about how she was treated when she challenged the contract.
Since my demotion I have experienced isolation; I continue to receive inappropriately down-graded performance reviews; my top secret clearance has been withdrawn; individuals have attempted to take credit for my work, no training opportunities have been identified since I have no Engineering and Construction mission responsibilities, and I have been prevented from returning to my contracting career field.
Greenhouse also talked about how painful it was to be excluded from the Hurricane Katrina clean-up effort. A Louisiana native, she said the program she would have run was handed over to unqualified staff.
But she carried on. In 2011, the US District Court in Washington D.C. approved a settlement between Greenhouse and the Corps of Engineers. She received $970,000 for lost wages, damages and attorney fees.
In 2005, a GAO report concluded that the Corps “properly awarded a sole-source contract for rebuilding Iraq’s oil infrastructure to the only contractor that was determined to be in a position to provide the services within the required time frame.“ But, scrutiny of the company continued. Five years later, in 2010, Politifact noted:
… Government officials have raised many questions about KBR’s fulfillment of its contracts, everything from billing for meals it didn’t serve to charging inflated prices for gas to excessive administrative costs…Over the course of several years, the Defense Contract Audit Agency found that $553 million in payments should be disallowed to KBR.
In 2015, KBR was ordered by the Justice Department to pay $100,000 fine for improperly accepting “gifts and gratuities, including expensive dinners, golf outings and event tickets from various sub-contractors while KBR was providing logistic services in Iraq.”
Greenhouse’s biggest concern, she tells Ferrer, “was taxpayers being fleeced…There was this centuries-old, good-old-boys network. It was all about — what can I do for you to get a contract.”