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

Transcript of the opening statement by Rep. John Tierney 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 for calling this hearing today. I want to thank all the commissioners for their great work over the past three years. I think it’s a great example of public service. Your previous public service meant that none of us is surprised by the effort and the expertise that you’ve brought to it. I certainly want you to know that we can’t express our gratitude probably loud enough and clear enough. I hope the American people understand the sacrifice that you put into doing this job, and you had many other things that you could have been doing with your time and effort so your citizenship is greatly appreciated.

“I was pleased to have Jim Leach, our Republican counterpart, co-sponsor a legislation that became the Commission on Wartime Contracting. So I take special pride in the success that you’ve had and the fact that you did a good job and with the leadership of Mike Thibault and my friend, Chris Shays, who just left one hat and put on another hat and went about doing the same thing he had always been doing which was good thorough oversight work, and we appreciate that. If it hadn’t been for Sen. Webb and Sen. McCaskill and others in the Senate who picked up the cudgel there and move forward, it may never become legislation so we think it’s a great bi-cameral, bipartisan effort on that, which was important. We fashioned this after the so-called Truman Commission. We did that on the notion that people would know that it was not going to be partisan. The idea was not to be attacking any executive or administration in particular, but the notion that whenever we get into a contingency operation there will be those that try to take advantage of the situation, in some circumstances, in of itself without any purposeful bad acts, lend themselves to mismanagement or abuse on that. So the commission was authorized and charged with identifying the scope of the wasteful contingency contracting and recommending reforms, and you did just that.

“But the results of your work is sobering. As many have already mentioned, billions of dollars wasted by agencies that had little capacity to manage the contractors or even to hold them accountable. Billions of dollars more have been dedicated to projects that were poorly conceived and are probably unsustainable by the host government.

“These findings are consistent with the committee’s own oversight of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think we’ve already mentioned that here last year I led a six-month sub-committee investigation on the $2 billion Department of Defense trucking contract in Afghanistan. Our investigation found that the trucking contract has spawned a vast protection rights racket in which warlords, criminals, and insurgents extorted contractors for protection payments to obtain safe passage. Our investigation further showed that senior officials within the United States military contracting chain of command had been aware of that problem but had done little to address it.

“Two weeks ago, the National Security Subcommittee had a follow-up hearing with three Defense Department witnesses to address those issues. I asked General Townsend, the Director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, the joint staff, whether the contractor protection payments toward warlords, power brokers, and insurgents were necessary for safe passage in Afghanistan. He said they were, and in many cases they don’t have a choice in his exact words. I then asked Gary Motsek, the head of the contingency contracting at the Department of Defense, whether such payments are legal under United States law. He stated that they absolutely were not legal. So in other words, the Department of Defense designed a critical contract to which it was necessary, in their terms, for the contractors to make illegal protection payments that in many cases were found to use against the very forces to attack our troops. This is unheard of, I think, in other situations.

“My fear is that my committee’s and your commission’s investigations are only the tip of the iceberg. I think your work has shown that as well. Much of the Afghan economy now centers around the United States and international military presence. Many of the Afghan elite have their own logistics contracts with the United States. Significant portions of these funds seem to end up supporting the Dubai real estate market rather than jobs in Afghanistan.

“Today, the business of Afghanistan is war. How can we ever hope to extricate ourselves from that war when so many Afghans benefit from the insecurity that is used to justify our continued presence? To my mind, we’ve crossed a tipping point in which the size of our military footprint inadvertently fosters further instability. Every additional soldier and every additional supply convoy that we send to Afghanistan further fuels a cycle of dependence, corruption, and endless war.

“Simply stated, we cannot afford to fail at getting a handle on contingency contracting, waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only does this squander precious taxpayer resources, it can seriously undermine the mission and even fund those who attack our brave men and women in uniform.

“In that vein, I’ve introduced legislation to establish the inspector general for overseas contingency operations. The efforts of the commission along with the Special Inspector General for Iraq and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan have shown the critical importance of real-time oversight in our overseas operations. We need to preserve the unique capabilities of these three entities in a single, permanent inspector general with a flexible deployable cadre of oversight specialists. I urge my colleagues to join me in this legislation.

“Finally, I’m also working on tackling many of the commission’s  other legislative reform recommendations, which were excellent and on point. It’s a challenging task, but with your great work, that will serve as a blueprint for our efforts that go forward.

“I want to thank you again for your service and your testimony here today. I look forward to our discussions. I want to thank you again, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chaffetz as well, for keeping this a non-partisan, bipartisan effort that is all about oversight, making sure that this institution of Congress does its job with respect to any administration that might be in any particular time.”

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One Comment on “Transcript of opening statement by Rep. John Tierney 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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