WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) spoke on the Senate floor and introduced an amendment to the FY2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill that would hold contractors accountable for the safety of military personnel while serving abroad. Senator Casey introduced this legislation after shoddy electrical work lead to the deaths of a soldier and a contractor with ties to Pennsylvania while showering in Iraq.
“Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 10 brave service members and civilian contractors in Iraq have died as a result of electrocutions that could have been prevented,” said Senator Casey. “We've had lots of investigation and lots of reviews, but, in my judgment, not enough in the way of answers. We have an obligation in the United States Senate as well to prevent any further electrocutions of our troops in these circumstances.”
Casey’s amendment would close a loophole that has left shoddy electrical work and other problems on American military bases uncorrected. Under current law, contractors that inspect and discover deficiencies are not explicitly required to immediately correct such problems. This amendment would ensure that the Defense Department reviews all contracts to ensure that the language of the contract clearly requires contractors to immediately correct deficiencies, such as improperly grounded equipment or facilities, which could cause death or serious bodily harm.
Senator Casey continued, “Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth of the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania died on January 2, 2008, when he was electrocuted while showering in his barracks in Iraq. It's hard to describe in words the horrific nightmare that he had to live through and was killed by and the nightmare that his family has lived through ever since. His mother, Cheryl Harris, is someone I’ve come to know and she's been a strong advocate not just for finding out what happened to her son but also making sure that this doesn't happen to other sons and daughters serving in harm's way. And just imagine this- a brave soldier trained to take on the enemy, willing to go into the battlefield and endure a firefight, is killed in a shower because someone didn't do their job in ensuring that that shower was not grounded or not installed correctly to prevent a shock which led to an electrocution and a death.
“Ryan was not killed in combat. He was killed by the mistakes of others in a place where he should have had a reasonable expectation of safety and security away from the battlefield. This amendment is necessary because Ryan’s tragic death could have been prevented if the bad electrical work was fixed.
“At the beginning of last month, a civilian contractor, Adam Hermanson died as a result of being electrocuted. Adam was planning to move to Pennsylvania with his wife Janine. Janine is currently living in our state with her parents and searching for an explanation as to why this happened to her husband. The Departments of Defense and State have an obligation to provide this explanation.”
In addition to preventing electrocutions, Senator Casey’s amendment seeks to ensure safe and sanitary water and establish and enforce strict standards for preventing and prosecuting instances of sexual assault.