Bush administration invites bids for Iraq reconstruction

In preparation for reconstruction of post-war Iraq, the Bush administration recently invited at least five construction giants to bid on a contract worth up to $900 million.

The project would include construction and repairs to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and mosques. The U.S. Agency for International Development predicts the installation of 550 diesel generators to restore power within two months and the eventual repair of 3,000 schools. The task of reconstructing Iraq after a possible war would likely be the most ambitious rebuilding project headed by the U.S. since World War II.

“Because of the urgent circumstances and the unique nature of this work, USAID will undertake a limited selection process that expedites the review and selection of contractors for these projects,” a spokeswoman for the USAID told The Mercury News.

A few of the construction firms that were invited to place bids include Bechtel Group, Halliburton, Fluor, Parsons and Louis Berger Group. Louis Berger Group is currently under U.S. contract in Afghanistan. Halliburton’s Kellog Brown & Root recently won a government contract to oversee firefighting operations at Iraqi oil fields after a U.S. invasion, according to Reuters. Vice President Dick Cheney was a previous executive officer for Halliburton.

The price tag of the reconstruction could skyrocket. If necessary, the Bush administration will ask Congress for billions of dollars for the military and civilian post-war effort. While U.S. diplomats have been seeking foreign financial commitments, planners are hoping revenue from Iraqi oil would also help pay for the possible reconstruction effort.

“The United States is probably going to have to pick up the bulk of what’s going to happen in reconstruction, at least at the outset,” author Bathsheba Crocker told The Washington Post. “It’s acknowledged even by them that it’s going to be a drop in the bucket compared to what the overall costs will be.”

Several of the firms invited to bid are fiercely competing for the contract because it could lead to other post-war business opportunities, although the topic is still sensitive because war has not been declared.

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“We hope for a peaceful settlement in Iraq, but if there is a role for U.S. companies in helping to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, Bechtel would have the skills and would be well-suited for such a job,” Bechtel spokesman Jonathan Marshall told The Washington Post.