WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Justice Department says Kellogg, Brown and Root, one of the military's largest contractors, passed the cost of "unauthorized, private armed security in Iraq" to taxpayers. Uncle Sam says KBR, a former division of Haliburton, violated its 2001 contract, which "absolutely prohibited" the company and its subcontractors from possessing or using private weapons.
KBR awarded subcontracts to three private security companies to provide armed, personal security details for its executives, and to 30 subcontractors that also hired private security, according to the federal complaint.
KBR hired Triple Canopy, Omega Risk Solutions and Al Dhahir to provide security for executives in Iraq, but KBT should have relied on military protection, the complaint states.
KBR billed the "dominant portion of the costs attributable to those services to the Army indirectly through an overhead account," according to the complaint.
The Justice Department says KBR awarded contracts to more than 30 other companies that used their own private security.
One dining subcontractor, ESS Support Services Worldwide, routinely hired private, armed security companies to shuttle managers, personnel and payroll around Iraq, rather than arrange to travel with military convoys as required, the lawsuit states.
The feds also say ESS used private guards to protect its offices in Iraq.
"KBR either knew that these subcontractors were using unauthorized ... [and] prohibited private armed security, or did not ensure that their use of private armed security was authorized," according to the complaint.
"In a war zone such as Iraq, the military has an obvious and critical need to control the possession and use of weapons by its own personnel, as well as by the civilians working by its side," the lawsuit states. "Military commanders need to know and contain who is armed and what weapons are being used."
The United States seek unspecified penalties and damages for breach of contract.
The lawsuit was filed by Assistant Attorney General Tony West.