Construction workers in Iraq organize sewage pipes in this 2006 photo.
By an estimate its co-chairs call conservative, the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting has found that the government wasted $30 billion on the use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The co-chairs, writing in The Washington Post, say that number could double.
The main culprits, according to former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and Michael Thibault, a former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, are “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.”
The chairs said additional waste could stem from massive projects that the Iraqi and Afghan governments are unable to support, such as a $300 million Kabul power facility “that requires funding and technical expertise beyond the Afghan government’s capabilities.” —PZS
Christopher Shays and Michael Thibault in The Washington Post:
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.
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.