The bi-partisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan will release its report to the vacationing Congress on Wednesday. According to an editorial written by the report’s co-authors, the Commission found that $30 billion U.S. tax dollars was wasted in those two wars, a least during the period covered by the report.
$30 billion dollars could have done a great deal right in building infrastructure and putting Americans back to work re-building our infrastructure.
Report found waste in poor planning, inadequate competition, and misconduct
The report was written by the Commissions co-chairmen Christopher Shays, former Republican Congressman from Connecticut and Mark Thibault, a former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency. In an Editorial in the Washington Post on August 28, the men wrote:
“Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted through poor planning, vague and shifting requirements, inadequate competition, substandard contract management and oversight, lax accountability, weak interagency coordination, and subpar performance or outright misconduct by some contractors and federal employees,”
“Projects that are or may be unsustainable are a serious problem. For instance, U.S. taxpayers spent $40 million on a prison that Iraq did not want and that was never finished. U.S. taxpayers poured $300 million into a Kabul power plant that requires funding and technical expertise beyond the Afghan government’s capabilities. Meanwhile, a federal official testified to the commission that an $11.4 billion program of facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces is “at risk” of unsustainability.”
“Poor planning, federal understaffing and over-reliance led to billions of dollars of contracts awarded without effective competition, legions of foreign subcontractors not subject to U.S. laws, private security guards performing tasks that can easily escalate into combat, unprosecuted instances of apparent fraud, and projects that are unlikely to be sustained by the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“The contractor workforce in Iraq and Afghanistan has at times exceeded 260,000 people and has sometimes outnumbered U.S. military forces in theater.”
Commission to make recommendations to improve contingency contracting
According to the editorial, the Commission will make 15 specific recommendations on how to improve the situation for the future. One recommendation will be to appoint an Inspector General for contracting and designate an official who will sit on the National Security Council and the National Council of Economic Advisors to insure coordination between budget and spending.
They recommend that no contracts be let without a Risk Analysis Study. Projects must demonstrate their sustainability the authors said.
Report will fuel some Congressional efforts to cut defense spending
The report is being released just days before the 12 member committee in Congress begins deliberations on a plan to find an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If the committee doesn’t, there will be mandatory cuts to defense spending. Republicans are trying to avoid any defense cuts. This report will provide Democrats with grounds to assert that there is enough waste that defense cuts will not harm our national security.
The second-ranking House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, is already calling for stronger oversight of defense spending. According to an article by Mike Lillis in The Hill, He said this report “finding widespread waste in Iraq and Afghanistan should be a wake-up call for lawmakers pushing back against any Defense Department cuts.” He asked the super committee “keep such waste in mind as the panel searches for trillions of dollars in federal savings.
“As the bipartisan select committee on deficit reduction begins its work, it is essential that the committee’s members focus on all of the contributors to our deficit, on both the revenue and spending sides,” Hoyer said in a statement.
It is not likely that $30 billion in waste will impress Republicans on the committee. The GOP has never found a defense contract it didn’t like. Defense contractors are major contributors to Republican campaigns. Their lobbyists lavish perks on members of Congress or both parties, but mostly Republicans to keep the contracts rolling.
Former General, Allied Commander, and President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, said in his farewell address,
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
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