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U.S. wasted $34B on Iraq, Afghan contracts, commission finds


Just imagine what the services could do with $34 billion, even if they split it four ways. The Air Force could buy a few more F-35As. The Army could get a head start on its reset plans. The Marines could pump it into development for their New Amphibious Vehicle -- or buy some more MV-22 Ospreys. The Navy could make quite a dent in its ship and aircraft maintenance backlog.

But DoD isn't going to get a windfall of $34 billion. That's just the latest addition to the billions upon billions of dollars the department has paid out to little or no benefit, according to a report Monday. Reuters' man in the Pentagon, Phil Stewart, writes that a forthcoming study will lay out the whole story:

The analysis by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, details of which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, offers the most complete look so far at the misuse of U.S. contracting funds in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than $200 billion has been doled out in the contracts and grants over nearly a decade. It also gives the most complete picture of the magnitude of the U.S. contracting workforce in the two countries.

The source, who declined to be named, said more than 200,000 contractors have been on the U.S. payroll at times in Iraq and Afghanistan -- outstripping the number of U.S. troops currently on the ground in those countries.The United States has fewer than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and some 46,000 forces in Iraq. The tally of private sector contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan can be surprisingly difficult to obtain since many U.S. contractors are outsourced to subcontractors who depend on temporary labor, the source said.

The report blames a lack of oversight by federal agencies for misuse of funds and warns of further waste when the programs are transferred to Iraqi or Afghan control as the United States withdraws its troops.

Oh, good, something else to look forward to!

As DoD and its advocates in Congress try to keep the budgetary Grim Reaper at bay, the last thing they need is another damning report about waste. Just in the past seven days, we've heard that DoD pays about 35 percent more than it did 10 years ago for approximately the same force; that the Army has wasted up to 45 percent of its acquisition budget every year on failed programs; and not only that DoD has wasted all these billions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but some of that money has directly financed the Taliban.

Hey, that's not fair, defense officials might say -- these are all different cases, this has taken place over many years, and now we're super-serious about being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Not only that, everybody with a war oversight role, including State, shares some blame for this contracting waste.  That could all be true, but as defense advocates on the Hill continue trying to spare the military-industrial complex from austerity budgets, reports like these just weaken their case. Why protect the Pentagon's budget when so much of it just winds up going down the drain?

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