Wednesday, August 31, 2011

$60 billion misspent in past 2 U.S. wars

Ah, the wonders of privatization, to make use of the efficiencies of the private sector

by Richard Lardner - Aug. 31, 2011 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - As much as $60 billion intended for financing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been lost to waste and fraud over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

In its final report to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said the figure could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes, leaving both countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American tax dollars.

Much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided with better planning and more aggressive oversight, the commission said. To avoid repeating the mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, government agencies should overhaul the way they award and manage contracts in war zones, the commission recommended.


The Afghan insurgency's second-largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission.

But the report does not say how much money has been funneled to the insurgency. The money typically is lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection, according to the report.


But there are other considerations related to what the commission called an "unhealthy over-reliance" on the private sector for reconstruction work.

Contractors are handling duties that U.S. laws and regulations require government employees to perform, the commission said.

For example, agencies often hire contractors to help evaluate or support its management of other contractors. This can create serious conflicts of interests, the report said, underscoring the need for a competent and well-staffed workforce of government acquisition professionals.

"Ten years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen the United States using too many contractors for too many functions with too little forethought and control," the commission said.

The heavy dependence on contractors also obscures the full human cost of war, according to the commission. Contractor deaths and injuries largely have been undercounted and unpublicized by the U.S. government and the media, the report said.


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