Transcript: Sen. Claire McCaskill on wartime contracting reforms

Transcript of opening remarks by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), Chairwoman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contract Oversight, on April 17, 2012:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Contract Oversight. SOURCE:

“On Aug. 31, 2011, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan presented its final report to Congress.

“On Feb. 29, 2012, Sen. [Jim] Webb (D-Va.) and I introduced Senate Bill 2139 “The Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act of 2012.”

“This legislation is based on the findings and recommendations of the commission.

Read more: McCaskill & Webb tout bill to reform wartime contracting

“This morning, I have the honor of hearing from the distinguished representatives of the Defense Department, State Department, USAID, and respective agencies’ Inspectors General present their views on this important legislation.

“Based on their contributions and what we’ve heard from many of the stakeholders with whom I and the subcommittee staff have met with over the last few months and on the input of Senators, we revised the legislation and introduced a new version for consideration in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“This legislation will increase accountability for wartime contracting and transform the way the federal government awards, manages, and oversees wartime contracts.

“It will help ensure that the waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement that we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan will never happen again.

“I want to make a few points about today’s hearing.

“First, we are here today to seek input from the executive branch, agencies, and Inspectors General because we want to get this right.

“The subcommittee has perviously met with contractors and other stakeholders regarding this legislation.

“However, major portions of this deal with the accountability and responsibility of government and that is by design.

“Therefore, I encourage you to share any suggestions you may have to improve this legislation.

“Second, this legislation builds on existing structures and rules to solve the problems identified by the commission. Senate Bill 2139 requires each agency responsible for wartime contracting to establish clear lines of authority and responsibility for all aspects of contingency contracting.

“It requires the Department of Defense, the State Department, and USAID to improve their training and planning for contract support and contingencies. The legislation reduces reliance on non-competitive contracting practices and restrict subcontracting practices that have resulted in a lack of transparency and visibility.

“The legislation requires the agencies to conduct risk analyses before relying on private security contractors and to terminate unsustainable reconstruction and development projects. It also strengthens tools to combat human trafficking.

“This approach is pragmatic and will reduce the potential for waste, fraud and abuse in future wars.

“Many of the witnesses today have already testified numerous times before this committee about lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I commend the departments, particularly the Defense Department, for recognizing that they have shortcomings and implementing changes.

“However, the commission concluding in its final report that ‘meaningful progress will be limited as long as agencies resist major reforms that would elevate the importance of contracting.’

“I want to put you all on notice today that such resistance is no longer acceptable.

“Today and in the weeks and months to come, we have an opportunity to make a real change in the way government spends money during wartime.

“It is not too late to prevent further waste in Afghanistan, and it’s not too late to prevent the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan from occurring in the next war whenever and wherever that may be.

“Everyone knows that contracting in a wartime environment is not going to go away. It will be here with our nation in the future. It is imperative that we no longer make excuses, rationalizations, or hide behind existing structures to defend the gross inadequacies that our government has displayed during contracting processes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We must fix these problems now while the memory is fresh, while the memories of these failures are fresh, and before the harsh lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan are forgotten.

“I remember on my first trip to Iraq on Contracting Oversight. I remember being accompanied by a general – a high-ranking general – in the Army. And I remember the conversation where it was said, ‘You know, we did a lessons learned after Bosnia. I just don’t know what happened to it.’

“I want to make sure that those same sentences are not uttered during the next contingency as we face contracting in the most difficult environment that contracting occurs and that is when our men and women are putting their lives on the line for our security and our freedom.”

“I thank the witnesses for being here today and I look forward to their testimony.”


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