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Criminally incompetent oversight of incompetent criminals

A lot of dollars are being wasted and stolen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amounts are staggering. One of the primary avenues for theft, waste, fraud and abuse of these funds which may eventually have to be paid back by your children and grandchildren is that much of the day to day war effort is being undertaken by private contractors who under perform and over bill the government. Since the government forcibly passes the costs of the wars on to the public taxpayers end up footing the bill for frittering away billions of dollars to ship people from all over the world to dusty guard towers where they can sleep in uncomfortable chairs.

Demand for contractor services is heavy, while oversight of their work isn’t. That means problems often aren’t discovered until long after the payments have been made.

A major trouble spot is the business systems and procedures that companies use to bill the government. The numbers are eye-popping. Defense auditors have found at least $6 billion in questionable charges generated by sloppy accounting or, worse, contractors trying to bilk the military.

Yet, the Pentagon has done a poor job of recovering the money and forcing companies to improve, according to the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting. The panel cites dysfunction among auditors and contract managers, a shortage of personnel and a failure to be more confrontational with contractors who don’t measure up.

To be fair, I never saw a guard sleeping when I was in Iraq from 2005-2006. I did, however, see lots and lots of examples of money being wasted on ridiculous projects. Retrofitting conference rooms that were perfectly serviceable at a cost of millions per room is one example that immediately springs to mind. I sat in several meetings where we discussed spending money just to keep budgets at their current levels or to justify increasing them in the coming fiscal year. This is how government thinks.

In late 2007, the military belatedly began paying attention. Numerous contract violations were found, several of them serious, leading to a flood of what contracting officials call corrective action requests. Last fall, the Army Criminal Investigation Command opened an inquiry to determine if Combat Support Associates overbilled the government. The case is ongoing.

While the army says it is breaking up many of the abused private contracts into smaller more manageable pieces maybe the key is to minimize the use of private contractors to fight America’s wars. It might also be helpful if the government considered reducing the size of the war fighting machines it has created in the first place. I’m pretty sure Obama has been a great disappointment thus far to those who hoped for any change in foreign policy regarding how we win wars. After all, you are still paying for contractors to collect money and build nothing in return while empty job sites are guarded by imported private contractors being paid six figures to sleep in uncomfortable chairs. Open your pocketbook and smile at the man with one hand out and the other hand resting lightly on his gun.