Our report is not an attack on contractors. In general, contractors have provided essential and effective support to U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the costs have been excessive, largely because of a shrunken federal acquisition workforce and a lack of effective planning to use contractors and the discipline of competition.
That is great that the CWC made this distinction, because it is very easy for the government to place blame on private industry (agent), and not blame the Pentagon (principal) for any of this. I should also note that in the second article below, the author correctly placed blame on President Obama for not following through with his campaign promises. Here is the quote:
President Obama weighed in on the problem both as a candidate in 2008 and in a presidential memo in 2009. The center also cited a memo promising efforts at greater use of “multisource, continuously competitively bid” contracts issued in 2010 by Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s senior procurement chief.
But “campaign pledges and memos have made little headway in combating the problem,” wrote analyst Sharon Weinberger, whose team studied a dozen government reports and investigations and interviewed eight former government officials and experts.
And this is the statistic that really stands out. This administration has had plenty of time and opportunity to make things right and follow through with promises, and they have not done this.
Meanwhile, the Center for Public Integrity’s research findings, which it will unfold daily this week in a series called “Windfalls of War,” include an analysis of federal data concluding that “the Pentagon’s competed contracts, based on dollar figures, fell to 55 percent in the first two quarters of 2011, a number lower than any point in the last 10 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” The center noted that the issue of noncompetitive contracting practices has been examined many times by the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department’s inspector general, and the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
I can’t tell you how frustrating this has been to watch. The US government has so many reports and data points to draw conclusions from. We have been contracting for the last ten years and have numerous lessons learned to apply to our contracting machine. How many more reports or suggestions or critiques does it take?
Now one thing that I noticed in the first article that I wanted to point out, is this quote:
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.
Unsustainable projects, equipment, or weapons systems are an area of conflict that just kills me. We threw so much money at these conflicts, and the war planners and strategists determine projects that must be built to support the war effort. These projects create jobs and they give the local population something to do, other than picking up a gun and joining the insurgency.
But what happened to commons sense in this planning? Why build a prison that Iraqis do not want? Why build a power plant that would require money and expertise that a country does not have? It’s like giving some kid without a drivers license and makes 500 dollars a year, a Porche, and expecting them to be able to pay for the insurance, gas and maintenance of the thing. Let alone thinking they have the skills necessary to drive that vehicle safely. It is just irresponsible, and that is the way we should be looking at war planning and how we help these countries.
I would also be interested to read how many of these types of wasteful or unsustainable projects were the contributors to this $30 billion dollar figure? Of course I will concede to the fact that there have been wasteful or fraudulent companies, but over all I still put the blame on those leaders that came up with this war planning and oversaw this contracting process.
Finally, here is the list of suggestions that the CWC put up as a teaser. This is an interesting list, but I do disagree with the inherently governmental portion.
Security Council meetings to ensure that the many agencies involved in contingency contracts or grants are properly resourced and coordinated;
-Making more rigorous use of risk analysis when deciding to use contractors, rather than assuming that any task not on a list of “inherently governmental function” is appropriate for contracting;
-Requiring that officials examine current and proposed projects for risk of unsustainability, and cancel or modify those that have no credible prospect of operating successfully; and
-Creating a permanent inspector general for contingency operations so that investigative personnel are ready to deploy at the outset of a contingency, and to monitor preparedness and training between contingencies.
To me, contractors are certainly capable of doing anything the military can do. To include offensive operations. I have brought up examples of this kind of offensive capability, both American and other. Companies like the AVG’s Flying Tigers, our early privateers, or companies like Executive Outcomes all showed the potential of privatized offensive operations. So private industry can do the job, and to me, the decision to use private industry for such a thing should be based on the national security of a country, and of the military leaders tasked with protecting a country, and not on some false idea that industry is not capable of such things. Private industry is a tool in the toolbox of national security, and the survival of a country is ‘inherent’. –Matt
Reducing waste in wartime contracts
By Christopher Shays and Michael Thibault,
August 28, 2011
At least one in every six dollars of U.S. spending for contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, or more than $30 billion, has been wasted. And at least that much could again turn into waste if the host governments are unable or unwilling to sustain U.S.-funded projects after our involvement ends.
Those sobering but conservative numbers are a key finding of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will submit its report to Congress on Wednesday. All eight commissioners agree that major changes in law and policy are needed to avoid confusion and waste in the next contingency, whether it involves armed struggle overseas or response to disasters at home.
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. Both government and contractors need to do better.