A Run for the Border

By P.W. Singer
Sunday, July 9, 2006

Those of us who track federal contracting come across unusual announcements all the time. Sometimes they are a useful indicator of preparations for a policy soon to be enacted. Other times they signify nothing more than a government bureaucracy in all its inane glory. How, then, should we react to the solicitation at right -- a Department of Homeland Security request for an "indefinite quantity, indefinite delivery" of burritos to be stockpiled along the Texas border?

The contract raises a feast of questions: Why didn't Homeland Security just get the super-value meal? More important, is Taco Bell disqualified from bidding because of its slogan "Make a run for the border"?

Posted in late June, the solicitation came on the heels of another spicy tidbit on the same government database -- a contract for as much as $385 million awarded just a few months ago to Dick Cheney's old firm Halliburton to be on call in case the government ever needs to build 5,000-person camps for "temporary detention and processing." Could we have here a bean-and-beef-stuffed sign that the administration is contemplating a showy border sweep before the congressional elections?

That such conspiracy theories should even come to mind is a sad statement about our politics. Rather than serious public debate, we've been served a summer of faux outcries, such as describing flag burning and same-sex marriage as epidemics and treating immigration as a national security crisis. It's enough to give anyone indigestion.

P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, always gets the Gorditas.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company