Transcript of opening statement by Rep. Elijah Cummings on the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report
Transcript of the opening statement by Rep. Elijah Cummings 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:
“First, let me say that I understand Mr. Mike Thibault will not be able to be with us this morning. I understand that you’ll be putting his full statement in the record, which we would appreciate and would join you in. Mr. Thibault worked with our committee closely in the past, and we sincerely appreciate his career in public service and his expertise.
“Chairman Shays, it’s great to have you back again before the committee, which you served on for so many years. Thank you to all the commissioners for being here with us today.
“Over the past decade, the United States has grown increasingly reliant on contractors to provide support services to the military, the State Department, and USAID. In Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors outnumber service members, and they perform essential tasks, such as shipping supplies through hostile territories and providing security to bases and personnel. Since 2001, we have spent more than $200 billion on these contracts.
“After an extensive bipartisan investigation, the Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that as much as $60 billion may have been lost to waste and fraud due to a lack of effective competition, oversight, and enforcement in contingency contracting.
“Although the scope of this contracting problem is daunting, it is not new to this committee. Under Chairman Henry Waxman’s leadership, the committee examined problems with the military’s LOGCAP contracts for logistical support, the government’s multiple contracts with Blackwater USA for security services, and the State Department’s bloated billion dollar contract to build the United States embassy in Baghdad. Chairman Towns continued this work by examining the system used by the executive branch to track contractors and waste in USAID’s reconstruction contracts. Under Rep. Tierney’s leadership, the National Security Subcommittee uncovered evidence that the United States trucking contractors and their private security providers were involved in a massive protection racket to send U.S. taxpayer dollars into the hands of warlords, power brokers, and the Taliban.
“Our committee’s oversight efforts have resulted in significant changes. In Iraq, the State Department has dramatically increased its management of private security contractors and the number of use of force incidents has plummeted. In Afghanistan, General Petraeus responded to Rep. Tierney’s investigation by issuing new contracting guidelines and charging two task forces with tracking U.S. contracting dollars to reduce corruption. But despite these worthy investigations to root out waste, fraud, and abuse after it happens, more must be done to prevent waste from occurring in the first place.
“In its final report, the commission has given us a roadmap – and a very good one at that – for reforms that includes 32 recommendations for both the Congress and the executive branch. These reforms require increasing competition, oversight, and enforcement. If we cannot put in place the personnel to oversee contractors in war zones, then we need to re-think the mission rather than blindly pressing forward with poorly designed contracts.
“Finally, to the commissioners, let me thank you for three years of dedication and hand work. You’ve pursued your mandate in a very vigorous, fair, and bipartisan manner in the best tradition of the Truman Committee. You’ve accomplished your mission by providing us with the historical account of the mistakes that were made and a guidebook to the reforms necessary to prevent them in the future.
“Now it is up to us, to Congress, to implement your recommendations. Mr. Tierney has taken the lead in introducing a bill that implements one of the commission’s principal recommendations: establishment of a permanent inspector general for the contingency operations. I urge my colleagues to support that legislation, and I hope the chairman will work with me and Rep. Tierney and others on the outside to focus more of our committee’s resources on this issue. I agree with the chairman. This is indeed a bipartisan effort. We must address this in a bipartisan way, just as the commission has set a wonderful example for us. We do appreciate you.”
- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Where is the Peace Dividend? Examining the Final Report to Congress of the Commission on Wartime Contracting
- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Joint statement of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan – Oct. 4, 2011 (PDF)
- Commission on Wartime Contracting
- Commission on Wartime Contracting: Transforming wartime contracting: controlling costs, reducing risks – 19-page executive summary (PDF)
- Commission on Wartime Contracting: Transforming wartime contracting: controlling costs, reducing risks – full 248-page report (PDF)
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. wasted billions in wartime contracts
- WhatTheFolly.com: New report on wasteful wartime contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan
- WhatTheFolly.com: Iraq & Afghanistan wars proved profitable for a small circle of private contractors
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. wasted billions on unsustainable wartime contracts in Iraq & Afghanistan