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

Transcript of the opening statement by Rep. Jason Chaffetz 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:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to all of you who have poured years of talent, expertise, and effort into producing such a quality document. Thank you for your time and effort. I only hope that we look towards it, we implement it, and we make positive changes. So again, thank you.

The American people are faced with the prospect that their government has wasted somewhere between $31 billion and $60 billion on contracting since 2002.

“From your report in Chapter 3, I’ll read, “The commission estimates that at mid-range waste and fraud during contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan averaged about $12 million everyday for the past 10 years.” According to the commission, this is due to the ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight, poor performance by contractors, criminal behavior, and just good old fashion blatant corruption.

“This is unforgivable. While some may agree or disagree with our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is universally unacceptable to waste taxpayer money. According to the commission, “Unless changes are made, continued waste and fraud will undercut the effectiveness of money spent in future operations.”

“These observations aren’t new however. Many, including this committee, have highlighted waste, fraud, and abuse since the war has begun. I compliment Mr. Tierney and others who have spent a lot of time highlighting this. Unfortunately, oversight has not improved necessarily during this administration. As it doubles-down on foreign policy agenda, this administration intends to dramatically increase the use of contractors before first addressing the lack of oversight. I’d like to read from the executive summary page 2 here. It says, “The number of Defense Department, Department of State, and US Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor-employees in Iraq and Afghanistan has varied but exceeded 260,000 in 2010. The contractor-employee count has at times surpassed the number of U.S. military personnel in the two countries. Most contractor-employees are third-country nationals and local nationals. U.S. nationals totaled 46,000, a minority of those employed.” Something we obviously need to look at.

“In Iraq, for example, the State Department’s footprint will increase to nearly 17,000 after the Department of Defense withdraws on Dec. 31, 2011. Many of these will be private contractors. To that end, the president, the secretary of state will hire an additional 5,500 private security contractors to compensate for the troop withdraw. This private army will fill the gap left by our troops. In other words, the president will remove the troops but increase the level of private security contractors.

“At the same time, the president is doing little to strengthen the oversight. According to the commission’s report, the State Department “is struggling to resolve budget issues and preparing requirements for awarding large number of contracts along with mobilizing the many U.S. government civilians into effectively managing these contracts.” Thousands of contractors operating without proper oversight is an unacceptable scenario. It will lead to the same type of waste, fraud, and abuse that is at issue here today.

“There are solutions however. At the first step, President Obama and the Senate should fill critical vacancies within the federal government. Currently, the State Department and the SIGAR are leaderless. USAID IG is retiring at the end of this month. These are basic steps and very critical components in personnel that we need in place in order to make sure that the proper oversight is in place.

“I, again, look forward to hearing from the panel. I appreciate the work the members have done here before. Thank you again for your good work. I look forward to a candid discussion today.”



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