The following is a statement from KBR Inc.'s corporate communications office in Houston in response to some of the questions submitted by NPR regarding issues covered in a report on KBR truck drivers in Iraq:
As part of the company's LOGCAP III (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contract with the U.S. Army, KBR's Theater Transportation Mission is tasked with delivering critical supplies — ammunition, water, spare parts for tanks and military vehicles, fuel, and medical supplies, among others — to the military throughout Iraq. At the mission's peak, KBR had more than 700 trucks traveling down Iraqi roads on any given day — making it the equivalent of one of the U.S.'s largest trucking companies.
KBR's work under the contract is only possible because of its people, so their safety and security has always been critically important. At the same time, everyone recognizes that we are working in extremely dangerous environments. One way we address this is through the extensive orientation and training programs that all of our drivers are required to go through, both during their in-processing in the U.S. and once they have been deployed to the Middle East region. Drivers are taught defensive and evasive driving techniques and given extensive training on improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other methods of attack, inspection of vehicles, how to check for bombs on vehicles, communication and communication systems, first aid, force protection and convoy operational requirements, as well as general driving safety rules and reminders. It is also for this reason that KBR is actively engaged in a program that continuously assesses and looks to upgrade the armoring of our vehicles. As with anything that happens in a war zone, though, this process takes time.
Following extensive studies and exhaustive searches for qualified subcontractors to perform this operation, KBR continues to be actively engaged in a program that continuously assesses and looks to enhance the protection of our vehicles. As with anything that happens in a war zone, though, this process takes time and is fraught with challenges.
KBR's transportation fleet consists of more than 1,000 trucks that were brought in from all over the world in order to meet the Army's urgent requirements. It is important to note that there are no readily-available prototypes of protection for review and application in these types of vehicles and, because truck cabs are not standardized across different makes and models, there is no “one size fits all” solution. As such, it has proven difficult and extremely time-intensive to locate and procure the equipment needed to retrofit the cabs with up-armor protection. KBR also has had to consider the downside of some available up-armor packages, such as reduced visibility and restricted egress in the event of a fire in the cab. That said, the company continues to actively seek and provide available solutions that will offer increased protection to our employees.
The U.S. military has command and control of all KBR's convoys in Iraq, supplying pre-trip threat assessments, determining routes and providing security for all of these convoys. To avoid jeopardizing future convoys, we will not detail the specific security measures that are currently in place. KBR continues to work closely with the military to improve the safety and security of our employees in the region while delivering the essential support services required by the military.
KBR operates under a rigorous Code of Business Conduct that outlines the legal and ethical behaviors that all employees and subcontractors are expected to follow in every aspect of their work. We do not tolerate any exceptions to this Code at any level of our company.
KBR takes seriously and fully investigations any allegation of a violation of its Code of Business Conduct. We encourage all employees to promptly report any suspected violations of our company's Code of Conduct by going either to a direct supervisor or further up the organizational chart, including senior management. KBR has a well-established open-door policy that enables such concerns to be dealt with appropriately. In addition, the company has a confidential ethics "hotline" and e-mail address for the reporting of any such concerns. The Code prohibits retribution against any employee for making a good faith report.
KBR believes that all personnel should be treated with dignity and respect and we are committed to maintaining a work environment that fosters these principles. Treating our employees with respect also includes making it possible for them to leave and return home if they become uncomfortable with the work they are performing.
But lives depend on our work, as does the military's ability to carry out its missions. KBR employees and subcontractors working in Iraq understand the dangers and difficult conditions involved in working in a war zone and have made courageous decisions to deliver the services necessary to support the troops.
Once KBR is aware of an accident, illness/injury or death, KBR immediately files a claim directly with the Defense Base Act insurance carrier, AIG, on the employee's behalf. Representatives from KBR's workers' compensation department will work with the employee or family to ensure they understand what coverage and benefits are available and are always available to answer questions assisting them through the process.
It is AIG's responsibility to determine compensability and administer all aspects of the claim. Unresolved disputes are referred to the U.S. Department of Labor.
All KBR employees have access to services from the company's Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, which is staffed with licensed mental health counselors.
In Iraq the company has strategically-placed EAP counselors and provides 24-hour access to stateside-based counseling via telephones, internet and e-mail, and additional support resources are available. Family members from the U.S. can call the company's toll-free number 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for EAP counseling services, or be referred to individual counseling services right in their local communities.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health diagnosis that meets the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV criteria. Current and former employees seeking care for PTSD may make a claim under the provisions of the Defense Base Act. Determining the compensability of those claims is solely the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Labor, which administers the Defense Base Act program.
For situations that do not meet the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD (e.g., some stress cases, anxiety, coping, etc.), employees may easily access counseling resources through our in-country Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselors and/or from an EAP-referred vendor. If the situation extends beyond the resources available through EAP, then the employee may access care from his/her medical benefits. Former employees are given the opportunity to continue their medical and mental health insurance coverage under COBRA when they leave the company.
KBR's EAP program, which services employees around the world, was established in 1980 because the company recognized the importance of helping employees resolve personal problems so they can work safely and productively. In addition to general stress-related issues, counseling is available for a variety of other life issues such as family problems, parenting, eldercare, relationships, substance abuse, and legal and financial problems.