Lack of Oversight Opens Gaps for Corruption in Military Contracting
Better oversight is needed to close loopholes in the military’s growing use of contractors. In current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, local sources provide everything from food to ammunition, freeing up troops while less critical tasks are taken care of by local businesses.
The use of contractors has proven invaluable amid a tightening militarybudget, as it relieves the United States of massive costs otherwise spent shipping supplies into remote areas. Yet, while growing reliance on services is increasing the number of providers, those in charge of oversight are getting more work than they can handle—a factor leaving gaps for corruption and waste.
The need for better oversight was among the leading themes in an April 25 hearing by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commission is gearing up to release a final report to Congress in July with recommendations to address current problems with contracting.
An interim report issued in February stated, “When government agencies lack experienced and qualified workers to provide oversight, the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse in contract performance increases exponentially.”
Its 32 recommendations to repair the system included the creation of an inspector general’s office for contingency operations, positions of oversight at multiple levels, and a certification program for troops sent to hire contractors.
A key problem is that while contractors constitute half of the total force in Iraq and Afghanistan, “The Army had been treating it as a side issue rather than a core capability,” stated to Jacques Gansler, chairman of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Improvement to Services Contracting, in a prepared statement read to the commission.
Gansler added that troops sent to acquire contractors are “understaffed, overworked, undertrained, undersupported, and, I would argue, most importantly, undervalued.”
While use of contractors is growing, management positions are being reduced. Gansler pointed out that in the 1990s the Army had five slots and four joint slots for general officer contracting management positions. That number dropped to no Army slots and just one joint slot.
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