McCaskill Wins Senate Approval of Landmark Wartime Contracting Amendment

McCaskill Wins Senate Approval of Landmark Wartime Contracting Amendment

WEBB-McCASKILL COMMISSION ON WARTIME CONTRACTING

Amendment No. 2999 to H.R. 1585

 

TitleAn amendment to provide for the study and investigation of wartime contracts and contracting processes in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Summary: The amendment would establish an independent and bipartisan eight-member Commission on Wartime Contracting to study and investigate:  (1) federal agency contracting for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan; (2) federal agency contracting for the logistical support of coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; and (3) federal agency contracting for the performance of security and intelligence functions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The bill also will expand the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR’s) area of responsibility beyond Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Funds.  In consultation with the Commission, SIGIR will conduct audits of agency contracts to identify potential waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. 

 

The Commission will study and investigate the extent and impact of this growing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions.  Its focus will encompass the policies, procedures, processes, and performance associated with wartime contracting and contracts.  It also will assess the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, and the extent to which those responsible have been held financially and legally accountable.  The appropriateness of agencies’ structure, policies, and processes for wartime and contingency contracts also will be assessed.

 

The bill also expands the authority of SIGIR beyond its current mandate to investigate the Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Fund.  More than $20 billion has been committed to Afghan reconstruction, yet virtually nothing has been done to assess the program.  Working closely with the Commission and the inspectors general of other agencies, SIGIR would be authorized to audit and investigate all support contracts associated with Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. SIGIR’s excellent performance in uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq reconstruction contracts is proof of its ability to conduct a more comprehensive inter-agency examination of wartime contracts. . 

 

Rationale:  With the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the federal government has relied upon unprecedented levels of private contractors to support U.S. military operations and reconstruction-and-relief projects.  The Government Accountability Office reported that between fiscal years 2003 and 2006, the U.S. government has allocated more than $300 billion to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq alone.  Increasingly, the work of a military at war is being performed by contractors—including such critical functions as security, intelligence, and logistics support.  Hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars have been exposed to potential misuse and waste. 

 

In 2005, for example, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) reported that nearly $9 billion spent on Iraq’s reconstruction was unaccounted for as the result of inefficiencies and bad management. To date, SIGIR investigations of $32 billion in Iraq reconstruction and relief funds have resulted in arrests, imprisonments, $3.6 million in restitution orders, and $9.5 million in recovered and seized assets. More than 40 individuals and private companies have been suspended, debarred, or proposed for debarment.  More than 30 SIGIR investigations await prosecution at the Department of Justice.

This independent, bipartisan, cross-jurisdictional Commission will significantly increase transparency and public accountability, as well as generate important remedies for systemic wartime-contracting problems.

 

The  amendment has been endorsed by taxpayer watchdog groups such as the Project on Government Oversight, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Government Accountability Project, OMBWatch, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American.  Congressman Tierney, chairman of the investigatory National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

COSPONSORS (27 as of September 26, 2007):

1.      McCaskill

2.      Klobuchar

3.      Brown

4.      Casey

5.      Tester

6.      Cardin

7.      Whitehouse

8.      Sanders

9.      Levin

10.  Carper

11.  Feinstein

12.  Kerry

13.  Johnson

14.  Boxer

15.  Obama

16.  Leahy

17.  Harkin

18.  Stabenow

19.  Dodd

20.  Landrieu

21.  Feingold

22.  Bayh

23.  Pryor

24.  Byrd

25.  Durbin

26.  Clinton

27.  Lautenberg

ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS (as of September 26, 2007)

 

·        Project on Government Oversight

·        Taxpayers for Common Sense

·        OMBWatch

·        Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

·        Government Accountability Project

·        Common Cause

McCaskill amendment creates commission modeled after the Truman Committee

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A landmark provision sponsored by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, and modeled after a committee established by Harry S. Truman as a Senate freshman, establishing an independent, bipartisan Commission to investigate U.S. wartime contracting in Iraq won approval in the Senate in a late evening vote on the Senate floor. The provision won Senate passage during floor debate of the Defense Authorization Bill, which authorizes funding for the U.S. Department of Defense for fiscal year 2008.

 

Inspired by the legacy of Harry Truman, who established a committee to fight wartime contracting abuse when he was a freshmen in the U.S. Senate, Senator McCaskill and her colleague Senator Jim Webb (VA) led all nine Democrat freshman Senators in offering this legislation which creates a Commission on Wartime Contracting that will assess the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts, and the extent to which those responsible have been held accountable.  The “Truman Committee” conducted hundreds of hearings and investigations into government waste, saving American taxpayers more than $15 billion (1943 dollars).

 

“Never before in U.S. history have we seen such waste, fraud, and abuse, costing the American people billions of dollars.  This amendment is not about politics; it’s about reform.  It is about looking forward and finding a way to contract that is fiscally responsible while still protecting the strength of our military,” said Senator McCaskill tonight.

 

McCaskill spent much of Wednesday and Thursday discussing the amendment with her fellow senators, attempting to win over the votes of colleagues on both sides of the aisle.  After debating the merits of the amendment on the Senate floor with Republican Senator John Warner (VA), the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, who became more receptive to the provision during the debate, stated:

 

"I must say having been on this Armed Services committee for 29 years with my good friend Senator Levin, we old bulls, as we’re referred to, are very impressed with our new member and her vigor and her foresight and her determination to get things done. You’ve stirred us up, I think, in a very constructive way if I may say."

 

The commission created by this amendment will significantly increase transparency and accountability, and address longstanding, systematic contracting problems with defense contracting by studying and investigating the impact of the government’s growing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions.  Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan now outnumber U.S. troops.

 

In a closing statement following passage on the Senate floor, Senator McCaskill rose and invoked the words of Truman to crystallize the importance of this legislation: “We intend to see that no man or corporate group of men shall profit inordinately on the blood of the boys in the foxholes.”

 

The modern War Contracting Commission would work in partnership with the Special Inspector General of Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  The legislation expands the oversight of the SIGIR to include investigations of all contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not just Iraq reconstruction.  This expansion is in response to recent reports of contractor abuses, including the latest federal investigation of Blackwater, which had the largest security contract in Iraq.

 

The measure attracted the bipartisan support and had the backing of taxpayer watchdog groups including: the Project on Government Oversight, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Government Accountability Project, OMBWatch, Common Cause, U.S. PIRG and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

 

Specifically, the amendment:

 

Establishes an independent, bipartisan eight-member Commission on Wartime Contracting to study and investigate federal agency contracting for:  (1) the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan; (2) the logistical support of coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; and (3) the performance of security and intelligence functions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

Expands the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR’s) jurisdiction beyond Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Funds to virtually all wartime contracts executed in support of either Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.  In consultation with the Commission, the newly-expanded SIGIR will conduct audits of wartime support contracts for logistics and security functions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.  The collaborative effort between the Commission and SIGIR is designed to lead to specific findings and recommendations to improve inter-agency wartime contracting, among other things.

 

Requires a study and investigation into the impact of the government’s growing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions.  The commission will assess the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts, and the extent to which those responsible have been held accountable. The number of contractors (180,000) now exceeds the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (156,247).