In a country with a murky
political future, a shaky infrastructure and militant remnants of the
toppled Saddam Hussein regime, Jay Garner has a tough job.
But with all the
uncertainty ahead, the retired U.S. general's top priority as Iraq's
postwar administrator was clear: restore basic services. Until the water
and lights are back on, the broader issues and the tough political fights
would have to wait.
day in your life can you have than to be able to help somebody else,
to help other people, and that is what we intend to do," the 65-year-old
Garner said upon arriving in Baghdad April 21, 12 days after the capital
was secured by coalition forces.
Garner's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid, or ORHA, reports
to U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks. The mission of ORHA's
450-person staff consists of directing the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure,
overseeing the establishment of an interim government and coordinating
humanitarian aid delivery.
While ORHA's task
is likely to take some time, most Iraqis have extended only a limited
"On the issue
of the interim authority, I think General Garner's work of reconstituting
the basic services will finish in a few weeks," Ahmad Chalabi,
leader of the U.S.-financed Iraqi National Congress, said the day before
Garner arrived in Baghdad. "Meanwhile, we must start the process
of choosing an Iraqi interim authority to take over the reins of power
in the country and the various departments of the government."
And the Bush administration
has tried to assure Iraqis and the rest of the world that Garner isn’t
Iraq’s new dictator or president.
"I know Garner.
He is deeply democratic," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
told Egyptian TV April 16. "He believes deeply in the right of
the Iraqi people to decide their own future, certainly to decide their
own foreign policy."
But some remain
uneasy because creating an Iraqi-led government isn’t likely to
be an easy job, and Garner hasn't put a time limit on his stay. "We
will be here as long as it takes," he said. "We will leave
Garner came to the
ORHA after six years in private sector technology firms and thirty years
in the U.S. Army. After retiring from active service in 1997, Garner
accepted a position as head of SY Technology, a firm that supplies much
of the technical support for many of the missile systems used by the
In 2002, L-3 Communications,
a Texas-based technology firm, purchased SY. Garner became a board member
of the new company and, in May of that year, head of its Coleman Research
division. In March, L-3 was awarded a $1.5 billion Pentagon contract,
for which they were the only bidder, to support U.S. special operations
forces in the war on terrorism.
Garner's close ties
to the Pentagon and his contractor position have come under fire by
some. Last year, Biff Baker, a retired lieutenant colonel of the Army
Space Command, charged that Garner used improper influence to win $100
million in contracts for SY Technology. Garner denied any wrongdoing
and sued Baker for defamation.
"I do not go to my friends for business," Garner said in sworn
testimony last year, the Associated Press reported. "I get business
from my friends, but it's not solicited by me. It's given to us because
of the quality of our company."
Baker and Garner
settled out of court in January of 2003.
Despite the scrutiny
it has received, hi move to high-tech firms was a natural one for Garner,
who directed the Reagan administration's Star Wars program in the 1980s.
Garner also worked on the Patriot missile-defense system during the
1991 Gulf War. After that war, Garner defended the system when reports
surfaced that it had offered only limited success in downing Iraqi Scud
In April 1992, Garner,
then the Army assistant chief of staff for operations, plans and force
development, testified that revised assessments of Patriot performance
in the Gulf was insignificant, according to the Journal of the Air Force
"War is a bottom-line
business," Garner told a House committee. "The bottom line
on Desert Storm is that the United States and its allies won."
But Garner's approach
and testimony irked those who had been critical of the system.
"He was arrogant
and very discourteous," Theodore A. Postol, an MIT professor and
leading critic of the Patriot system, told The Washington Post. "He
was part of a group of senior officers who were lying about Patriot's
Despite his, at
times, controversial work and testimony, many Iraqis, including Chalabi
and Kurdish leaders, have said they believe he is the right man for
"I think he's
a good man," Najmaldin Karim, the president of the Washington Kurdish
Institute, told NPR in April 2003. "He's very capable and competent."