Government Accountability & Balance of Powers
Webb’s Wartime Contracting Commission Says U.S. Wasted Up to $60 Billion
August 31, 2011
by Wesley P. Hester, The Richmond Times-Dispatch
The U.S. has squandered as much as $60 billion in less than a decade on contract waste and fraud during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a special commission launched by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting, launched in 2008 through legislation by Webb and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., released its 240-page report Wednesday, identifying at least $31 billion wasted on projects through private companies and individuals hired by the U.S. government.
The report faults poor decision making, vague requirements and a lack of training as the chief causes and says that the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better oversight and safeguards.
The eight-member commission — modeled after the Truman Committee, which examined U.S. wartime spending following World War II — lays out 15 recommendations for preventing similar problems in the future.
“As someone who spent five years in the Pentagon — one as a Marine and four as a defense executive — it was very clear to me that in the period when the overseas infrastructure and security programs were being put into place in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 there was something clearly wrong,” Webb said yesterday.
He pointed out that many good companies were doing quality work, as the report highlights, but added that there was also “a series of structural and leadership deficiencies in terms of how a lot of these contracts were being put into place.”
Webb said his eyes were opened to the problems shortly after taking office when, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he asked the Department of State for a detailed list of the $32 billion in contracts going into reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
“They could not provide us that list. For months we asked them and they were unable to come up with a list of the contracts that had been let,” he said.
The report also criticizes Washington for over-reliance on contractors.
Total spending on contracts and grants since fiscal 2002 has exceeded $190 billion, the report shows, with the contractor workforce at times exceeding 260,000, outnumbering deployed military.