Transcript of opening statement by Rep. Darrell Issa on the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report

Transcript of the opening statement by Rep. Darrell Issa at the House Committee Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “Where is the peace dividend? Examining the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting” held on Oct. 4, 2011:

“The oversight committee exists to secure two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to know the money Washington takes from them is well spent. Second, Americans deserve an efficient – I repeat, efficient – effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee is to protect these rights. Our solemn obligation is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because taxpayers have the right to know what they get from their government. We will work tirelessly in partnerships with citizen watchdog groups to deliver the facts to the American people and bring genuine reforms to the federal bureaucracy.

“Today, more than ever, our opening statement that we do at the beginning rings true at the panel of witnesses we have here, and I will say led from the middle by former Congressman Chris Shays, former member of this committee, and I guess I will include who would be sitting in my chair had he not gone on to these other pursuits. Welcome Chris. And the other members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, who in August released a final report with alarming findings about waste and abuse that has occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Over the course of two years, the commission has conducted 25 hearings, which for Chris Shays is only about average, issued five special reports and two interim reports. Its final report presents a sobering view of waste and fraud in the war on terror. An estimated $1.25 trillion has been spent on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report estimates that since 2002 – important: since 2002 – early on in the Bush administration, the Defense Department has spent $206 billion of their contract obligations in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least $31 billion and possibly as much as $60 billion has been lost to contract waste and fraud in America’s contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is appropriate for the commission and Congress to assess these costs and the reasons so much taxpayer money has been squandered to waste and fraud. The waste and fraud associated with these expenditures is mind-numbing.

“With the coming transition of operations from DOD to State Department in Iraq as well as the continued surge in Afghanistan that includes civilian federal workforce, costs associated with contractors are likely to increase.

“For example, the State Department will increase its manpower from 8,000 to 17,000. The great majority of those will be contractors that provide security, medical maintenance, aviation, and other functions.

“The State Department is building a virtual private army of private security contractors in Iraq. Some have estimated that as many as 5,500 new contractors will be necessary to protect and operate the U.S. embassy and its facilities and functions throughout Iraq.

“In Afghanistan, the number of civilian employees drawn from departments such as state, treasury, justice, and agriculture has tripled since 2009. That’s the number of civilian employees has tripled since 2009, arising from just over 300 to over 1,000 as of June 2011. Supporting and protecting this growth in additional staff will require continued use of private contractors under the current plan.

“We have reached a point where we are now forced to treat contractors as the default option. This is because federal agencies can’t complete mission-critical functions nor can they manage an overseas large contractor force of unprecedented size that at times has outnumbered troops in the field.

“When President Obama took office, he pledged to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in these areas. I might comment so has virtually every president. Instead, we are growing more and more reliant on contractors. New and increasing problems have come at a time when President Obama has failed to fill key leadership positions that ensure effective oversight is unbroken. He has failed to implement essential measures to combat the waste and fraud. The record of waste and fraud will continue unless the [administration] takes concrete actions to protect precious taxpayer dollars.

“The United States has not achieved peace and will not get a peace dividend unless we in fact are able to stem waste both created within our government and by our partners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today we will examine these difficult challenges and explore the conclusions and recommendations offered by the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

“But before we do, I want to make one thing very clear. Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have levied a very heavy human toll: 7,520 American and Coalition soldiers have been lost. Our brave men and women serving on the front lines continue to do an outstanding job fighting our enemies and securing freedom from those who terrorize or would terrorize us and oppress other nations.

“Nothing in this hearing nor the recommendations from the wartime contracting commission is intended to question their efforts or their commitment. Congress must recognize we are not there in harm’s way, and those who are there in harm’s way are doing the best they can. Rather, it is for this committee to evaluate the systems and the recommendations of this commission to recognize this is not a problem that began on this president’s watch, this is not a problem that will end no matter what we do. But we do have an obligation to do everything we can to assist the administration by systems and support to reduce waste and fraud, to reduce inefficiency, and to provide our best advice both through this commission and through our own efforts to an administration who has in fact countless thousands of men and women in harm’s way.”

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One Comment on “Transcript of opening statement by Rep. Darrell Issa on the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report

  1. Pingback: Wartime commission urges strong reforms to prevent future contract waste, fraud & abuse | What The Folly?!

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