The Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC), an independent, bipartisan legislative commission established to study wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has released its 240-page final report, “Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling Costs, Reducing Risks, ” this morning.
At least $31 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud in America’s contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much more will turn into waste as attention to continuing operations wanes, as U.S. support for projects and programs in Iraq and Afghanistan declines, and as those efforts are revealed as unsustainable.
Contract waste, fraud, and abuse take many forms:
▪▪An ill-conceived project, no matter how well-managed, is wasteful if it does not fit the cultural, political, and economic norms of the society it is meant to serve, or if it cannot be supported and maintained.
▪▪Poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as poor performance on the part of contractors, have costly outcomes: time and money misspent are not available for other purposes, missions are not achieved, and lives are lost.
▪▪Criminal behavior and blatant corruption sap dollars from what could otherwise be successful project outcomes and, more disturbingly, contribute to a climate in which huge amounts of waste are accepted as the norm.
The number of Department of Defense (Defense), Department of State (State), and the U.S. 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 more than 46,000, a minority of those employed.
The United States will not be able to conduct large or sustained contingency operations without heavy contractor support. Avoiding a repetition of the waste, fraud, and abuse seen in Iraq and Afghanistan requires either a great increase in agencies’ ability to perform core tasks and to manage contracts effectively, or a disciplined reconsideration of plans and commitments that would require intense use of contractors.
Failure by Congress and the Executive Branch to heed a decade’s lessons on contingency contracting from Iraq and Afghanistan will not avert new contingencies. It will only ensure that additional billions of dollars of waste will occur and that U.S. objectives and standing in the world will suffer. Worse still, lives will be lost because of waste and mismanagement.
The Commission says $31 to $60 billion but also note that given the often chaotic environment in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a conservative estimate of the money that has been lost through contingency contracting. The Commission estimates that at the mid-range, waste and fraud during contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan averaged about $12 million every day for the past 10 years.
That’s right. An average of $12 million every day for the past 10 years.
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot — how the heck do you spend $12 million a day? Read the report. It’s a true story, real enough to make you weep!