Greenhouse, Bunnatine "Bunny"
Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse
Army procurement officer, whistleblower
Bunny Greenhouse's story would be compelling enough even if she had never become caught up in controversy. She rose from a childhood in poverty to become one of the highest-ranking civilians working for the US military. It was her decision to follow her conscience and blow the whistle on alleged abuses in military contracting, however, that put Greenhouse in the news. By exposing apparent favoritism in the awarding of millions of dollars in Army contracts to well-connected companies, Greenhouse touched a nerve in the highest levels of the American defense industry and government. Her integrity may have cost her her career.
Learned Drive from Family
Bunnatine (Bunny) Greenhouse was born Bunnatine Hayes on July 22, 1944. She grew up in the poor, segregated, cotton town of Rayville, Louisiana in the Mississippi River delta. What her parents, Chris and Savannah Hayes, lacked in education—Chris, a cotton processor by trade, did not make it past second grade—they made up for in perseverance and drive. They instilled in each of their six children a sense of self-confidence that yielded amazing results. Greenhouse's older sister, a scholar in linguistics and literature, became one of the first black professors at Louisiana State University. An older brother also earned a PhD and taught at Baton Rouge's Southern University. Her most illustrious sibling, however, made his mark outside of the academic realm. Younger brother Elvin Hayes led the Washington Bullets to the 1978 National Basketball Association championship, and has been included on nearly every list ever compiled of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Greenhouse graduated as valedictorian of her high school class, and went on to graduate at the top of her class from Southern University in 1965, taking only three years to earn a degree in Mathematics. That year, she married her college sweetheart, Aloysius Greenhouse. Foreshadowing her own career, her husband became an army procurement officer. His job, which entailed overseeing the purchase of various supplies and services, took him to postings across the United States and over to Europe. Bunny moved around with him, taking jobs teaching math at the high school and college levels. The only substantial period they were apart was during Aloysius's two tours of duty in Vietnam, for which he earned the Silver Star. Bunny returned to teach at her hometown high school in 1967, the year the school was integrated. The white students there had never encountered a black teacher before.
"At the time, I didn't quite know what to make of a black person who didn't have a hoe in their hand," one former student from that period, Miriam Lane Davey, was quoted as recalling in an October 2005 Washing-ton Post article. "She had been somewhere else, she was cosmopolitan, she was sophisticated. It really changed my viewpoint…."
Began Career in Government
After 16 years as a teacher, Greenhouse undertook a career shift in 1981, entering government service as an Army procurement official. Starting at the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder as a Department of Defense procurement intern, she specialized in the minute details of contracting, working long hours while also raising three children. She used that experience to land a job as supervisor of contract pricing and administration with Dynalectron Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas. She remained in that position until 1983. Along the way, she somehow found the time to go back to school, earning a master's degree in business management from the University of Central Texas in 1982. In 1983 she took a position as contract administrator with the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board, but before the year was over she had moved on to a new job as a US Army procurement advisor based in Germany. Back in the United States in 1986, she advanced to a series of progressively higher posts within the Army's procurement system over the next several years. From 1991 to 1996 she served in high-ranking civilian procurement positions at the Pentagon. As she worked her way up the ladder, Greenhouse picked up two additional master's degrees: one in engineering management from George Washington University and one in national resources strategy from the National Defense University at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
In 1997, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, the first black chief engineer at the Army Corps of Engineers, hired Greenhouse to the position of Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC), the highest procurement post at the Corps and one of its highest civilian offices. In this job, Greenhouse oversaw the handling of billions of dollars worth of government contracts. In addition to her impressive credentials, Ballard favored Greenhouse for the job for another reason—he hoped to break up the "old boys network" of informal contracting arrangements that tended to result in the awarding of lucrative contracts to a handful of favored, well-connected companies.
For her first few years on the job, Greenhouse received dazzling performance reviews, toiling behind the scenes to save taxpayers millions of dollars. As the war in Iraq heated up, however, Greenhouse became troubled by how some of the Corps' biggest contracts were being awarded. A stickler for rules that existed to ensure a fair playing field for all companies competing for contracts, Greenhouse saw a pattern of favoritism emerging in dealings with Halliburton, the company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney. In March of 2003 the Corps awarded—over Greenhouse's objection-a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR, which is now its official name), a five-year, no-bid contract worth $7 billion to repair oil fields. Later that year, she complained when Corps leaders approved KBR's charges for fuel imports to Iraq after the Pentagon's own auditors said the charges were inflated by more than $61 million. The following spring, Greenhouse questioned the extension—with no bids entertained from other companies-of an expiring Halliburton logistics contract in the Balkans.
At a Glance …
Born Bunnatine Hayes on July 22, 1944, in Rayville, Louisiana; married Aloysius Greenhouse, 1965; three children. Education: Southern University, BS, mathematics, 1965; University of Central Texas, MS, Business Management, 1982; George Washington University, MS, Engineering Management, 1995; Industrial College of the Armed Forces, MS, National Resources Strategy, 1996.
Career: Math teacher, college instructor, several states, 1965–81; Dynalectron Corporation, Ft. Worth, TX, contract administrator, 1981–83; Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport Board, contract administrator, 1983; US Army, procurement advisor, Seckenheim, Germany, 1983–86; Director of Contracting, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 1986–87; procurement analyst/advisor, various stations, 1987–91; Chief, Analysis and Evaluation Offices, Pentagon, 1991–95, Chief, Procurement Management Review Team, 1996, Deputy for Armaments and Munitions, 1996–97; US Army Corps of Engineers, Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting, 1997–2005.
Memberships: National Contract Management Association; Project Management Institute; Armed Forces Communications and Electronic Association; Defense Systems Management College Alumni Association.
Awards: Outstanding Young Women of America, 1975.
Addresses: Office—US Army Corps of Engineers, 441 G. Street, NW, Washington, DC 20314-1000.
Blew the Whistle
Greenhouse's complaints of favoritism toward Halliburton made her a pariah in the military community. Suddenly Greenhouse, whose work had been rated as exemplary throughout her career, was threatened with demotion on the basis of poor performance. Rather than back down, Greenhouse decided to fight back. She went public with her assertions, and Army brass made good on their threats of demotion. In June of 2005, Greenhouse testified at a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing about KBR's favored treatment and overcharges. Two months later, she was removed from her PARC position and reassigned (senior executives cannot be fired) to a lower-level, lesser-paying post. Rather than accept defeat, Greenhouse hired a lawyer and contested the demotion, arguing that it was a clear-cut case of reprisal for her outspoken objection to shady contracting decisions. In November, allegations based on Greenhouse's statements were forwarded to the US Department of Justice, which was considering opening a formal investigation. Meanwhile, KBR and Halliburton continued to rack up government contracts, in spite of ongoing investigations of mishandling, bribery, and overcharges related to earlier contracts in Iraq and elsewhere.
As of early 2006, it was not clear whether Greenhouse would prevail in her attempt to salvage her career. One thing was clear, however: Greenhouse's actions shone a light on military contracting practices, which, taxpay ers can only hope, will make future abuses more difficult to perpetrate.
Associated Press, August 7, 2005.
New York Times, August 29, 2005; November 15, 2004.
Time, November 1, 2004, p. 64.
Vanity Fair, April 2005, p. 138.
Washington Post, August 29, 2005, p. A11; October 19, 2005, p. C1.
"A Background Trip with the PARC," US Army Corps of Engineers, www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepr/asp/walking/parc.asp?strCat=9 (April 28, 2006).
National Whistleblower Center, www.whistleblowers.org/html/greenhouse.htm (April 28, 2006).
"Ordeal of a Whistleblower," Alternet, www.alternet.org/story/24885 (April 28, 2006).
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