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Electrician Condemns Wiring At Iraq Bases

An electrician hired by the Army to help inspect electrical work at facilities where U.S. soldiers operate in Iraq said Wednesday that 90 percent of wiring done in newly constructed buildings by one military contractor was done improperly.

The inspector, Jim Childs, said in prepared testimony that an estimated 70,000 buildings in Iraq were not up to code. The work was performed by Houston-based KBR Inc.

"When I began inspecting the electrical work performed by KBR, my co-workers and I found improper electrical work in every building we inspected," Childs said. An advanced copy of Childs' testimony before the Senate Democrats' policy committee Wednesday was obtained by The Associated Press.

At least three service members have been electrocuted while showering at U.S. facilities in Iraq. Others have been injured or killed in electrical incidents.

Childs worked in Iraq for the military's Task Force SAFE, which was created last year to inspect and oversee repairs in about 90,000 U.S.-maintained facilities in Iraq. The AP has reported previously that about a third of the inspections conducted have so far turned up major electrical problems.

Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, said in a statement that KBR was not responsible for the deaths, and the company is cooperating.

"The assertion that KBR has a track record of shoddy electrical work is unfounded," Browne said.

The most high-profile electrocution death was that of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a Green Beret from Pittsburgh who was electrocuted while showering in his barracks early last year. Maseth's family has filed suit against KBR.

Childs said in his prepared testimony that even after rewiring was done by KBR in the building in Iraq where Maseth died, electrical problems persisted for several months.