Bad Watchdog Season 2 launches June 20.


Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria Contract Spending Revisited

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the Puerto Rico National Guard patrol one of the main highways of the metropolitan San Juan area, affected by the flood after the Hurricane Maria Sept. 22, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard / Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos)

Back in October, the Project On Government Oversight did a top-level analysis of federal government spending on Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria recovery contracts, as reported by the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS). The FPDS spreadsheets contain a wealth of data that allow the public to track billions of dollars in federal contract expenditures in precise detail: the agency awarding the money, the amount, the purpose, and the recipient. At that time, the government had spent a total of $1.65 billion on contracts. However, FPDS imposes a 90-day delay on the release of Department of Defense (DoD) data, so we were missing a big piece of the spending puzzle.

Now, DoD numbers are starting to trickle in and we are getting a more complete picture of federal contracting outlays for the recovery efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The federal contract award total now stands at $3.3 billion: $1.2 billion for Harvey, $726 million for Irma, and $1.4 billion for Maria.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still accounts for the largest share of the money. In terms of dollar value, DHS—mainly through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard—has awarded 90 percent of the contracts (just under $3 billion). DoD so far accounts for just 5 percent of the total ($169 million), but spending figures from past storms—namely, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina—indicate the Pentagon will soon vie with DHS for the top spot.

The percentage of contract dollars awarded under full and open competition has increased since October—from 78 to 82 percent. This is an encouraging trend: as POGO has long pointed out, full and open competition saves money, improves contractor performance, and promotes accountability.

The highest dollar value contract currently in the FPDS data is a $156 million deal FEMA awarded last fall to Georgia-based consulting firm Tribute Contracting LLC to provide meals to Puerto Rico. The top contractor in terms of contract dollar value is Vanguard Emergency Management Housing Inspection Services, with awards worth $190 million. Also among the top 10 are contracting heavyweights Parsons Brinckerhoff ($183 million), CSRA ($145 million), and CH2M Hill ($74 million).

The rankings will radically change when high-dollar DoD awards start showing up in the FPDS spreadsheets: for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $240 million contract to Fluor Corporation to restore electric power to Puerto Rico. When the value of that contract is ratcheted up to a planned $840 million, Fluor will likely leave all other contractors in the dust and become the new top dog.

Federal expenditures on Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria contracts have now surpassed the $3 billion spent for Hurricane Sandy and are steadily approaching the $20 billion total for Hurricane Katrina. As the total grows, so too will the misuse of those funds. To that end, POGO plans to release a database that will track all federal spending relating to Hurricane Harvey.

We need your help with keeping an eye on and reporting possible fraud, waste, or corruption involving hurricane relief and recovery. If you have any tips, please contact us.