Transcript: Sen. Jim Webb says Congress should pass wartime contracting reforms

Transcript of testimony by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) on SB 2139 “Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act of 2012” on April 17, 2012:

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) testified before the Senate Contracting Oversight Subcommittee on April 17, 2012. SOURCE: hsgac.senate.gov

“Thank you very much, Madame Chairman, Ranking Member [Rob] Portman, other members of the subcommittee.

“I do – you’ve got two full panels. I will be brief here. I would ask that the full written testimony that I have with me be included at the end of my brief oral remarks.

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

“I’m here to basically express the strongest support possible for the movement of this legislation that you, Madame Chairman, and I have worked on in different capacities for now, I guess, five years.

“At a time when this Senate is continually bogged down in symbolic votes rather than the issues of governance, I’m very proud of what we have been able to do on this issue since 2007.

“I’d say it’s been one of the great pleasures of being in the Senate to have been able to get this legislation into place – the first round of it with the Wartime Contracting Commission, and hopefully, with this recommendation that will be implementing some of the findings of that Wartime Contracting Commission.

“As the Chairman mentioned, she brought a strong background in auditing to the Senate. I spent five years in the Pentagon and in different capacities, including four years on the Defense Resources Board.

“One of my eye-openers coming into the Senate was sitting on the Foreign Relations Committee in ’07 when we had a hearing on Iraq reconstruction programs with the State Department. And they mentioned in their testimony that $32 billion in Iraq reconstruction programs that had been appropriated and were in some form of being put into play.

“And I asked, in a way I would normally have asked if I were in the Pentagon years before, to see the contracts and the amount and who the contractor was and what the state of implementation was on these different contracts – and they couldn’t tell us. We worked with them for months and they could not tell us where $32 billion had been spent in a specific way where we could evaluate the results. And that was one of the motivations that caused me to start working as avidly as I did, along with Chairman McCaskill, to see if we couldn’t have the management structures in place catch up with the realities of what had happened in the post-9/11 environment of military commitments overseas.

“This is a particular problem in the State Department and USAID. I don’t think they had anticipated these sorts of programs before the situation that existed once 9/11 occurred.

“We were very lucky, as Chairman McCaskill mentioned, to have gotten the support of Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). When we were advancing this legislation through the Senate, he was my senior Senator, was a Republican. I had worked with him when I was a young Marine, in my last year at the Marine Corps, when he was Secretary of the Navy. I followed him as Secretary of the Navy. And he, by stepping forward and demonstrating that this was an issue with wide concern for people like himself who have spent time in management positions in the Pentagon, really helped us push this over the threshold and into reality.

“We had a bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission. I think they did a really fine job. I personally was very disappointed that a lot of the findings have been sealed up for 20 years. But the overall recommendations, I think, are something that we would be able to work on in terms of implementing legislation that get into management, policies, and how we bring rigor to the process.

“And I would like to emphasize here as I did in our press conference earlier that I believe and I want to acknowledge that the great majority of the contractors who participated in this process since 9/11 are not only reputable but have really, really done a very fine job in an environment that a lot of people have not anticipated.

“This is not a piece of legislation nor was it a major goal of this process simply to bash wartime contractors. We can’t get along without them. This is a – have been an effort to put the right kind of structure into place so that we can have efficiently-run, well-managed, and effective wartime contracting and operational contingencies now and in the future.

“So I was very pleased to have worked in detail on this legislation as it was developed. It has my strongest support and I thank Sen. McCaskill for her untiring efforts here in order to bring good governance into this body.

“Thank you, Madame Chairman.”

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