Up to $60 billion squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan says The Wartime Contracting Commission. It’s time for massive overhaul.

 

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s Program Note: Are you a tax-paying American? Then today’s article will not merely irritate or anger you;  it will enrage you.

It is the story of stupidity, of waste, of fraud, of corruption — and of a government asleep at the switch;  it’s all too frequent position.

There are three ways to approach this story:

  1. you can ignore the facts and, ostrich-like, put your head in the sand and keep it there for the duration, or
  2. you can say, “What can I do? I have no way to influence the people who need to be influenced to effect the necessary changes”, or
  3. you can say, “I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

I want you to know, I am very definitely in the third camp, and I want you in the third camp, too.

To get you in the right mood to tackle this problem, I’ve chosen one of the best “jump-up” songs ever, You keep me hangin’ on by The Supremes (released in 1966). The lyrics are perfect for this article. As you read them, imagine you are uttering them — to the people in charge, the people frittering away your hard- earned money:

“Set me free, why don’t cha babe Get out my life, why don’t cha babe ‘Cause you don’t really love me You just keep me hangin’ on.”

In this tune, an exasperated Diana Ross says, “And there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”

But there is……

Start by going to any search engine to get this tune. Clear a space. Turn up the music… and get the necessary “in your face” attitude. Then dig in…

The facts.

The United States has lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stands to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awards and manages contracts for battlefield support and reconstruction projects, independent investigators reported August 31, 2011.

The Wartime Contracting Commission urged Congress and the Obama administration to put in place its detailed recommendations to overhaul the contracting process and increase accountability. The commission suggested that the joint House-Senate debt reduction committee take a close look at their proposals.

The commission was adamant, failure to act now ensures continuing waste and fraud at the massive current levels. “What you’re asking for is more of the same”, said Dov Zakheim, a commission member and the Pentagon comptroller during President George W. Bush’s first term. “More waste. More fraud. More abuse.”

The bipartisan commission, created by Congress in 2008, estimated that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning, infrequent competition, and corruption. “I personally believe that the number is much, much closer to $60 billion,” Zakheim said.

The commission’s recommendations.

The commission offered 15 recommendations including creating an inspector general to monitor war zone contracting and operations, appointing a senior government official to improve planning and coordination among federal agencies, and carefully monitoring contractor performance. Representative John Tierney (D-Massachusetts), top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform national security subcommittee said the commission’s findings are alarming and that he’ll introduce legislation to create the inspector general’s post.

This is all fine as far as it goes, but it’s not good enough, not least because it won’t capture the attention of the American people and get them sufficiently interested to demand the necessary reforms, and demand them NOW!

What then is necessary?

Senator Harry Truman and his approach suggest a do-able solution.

All wars produce massive fraud, mismanagement and corruption, even “good” wars like World War II. And all wars require that every expenditure be reviewed. The man who did this in WWII was an obscure senator from Missouri, Harry Truman. Thanks to David McCullough’s magisterial biography, at hand as I write this, I am in a position to share Truman’s important work as chairman of the (Senate Special) Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. It provides the necessary inspiration and specific steps we must take to solve this infuriating, debilitating problem and solve it now before we hemorrhage to death through mind-boggling selfishness, mismanagement, and stupidity.

Truman’s secret? Legs.

Harry Truman had no idea what he was getting into when he decided to see for himself what was wrong with the nation’s wartime contracting process. But he was a game fellow and knew the secret was understanding how the process worked, including where abuses were likely to occur. This meant getting out of Washington, to visit wartime facilities, meet the people, understand the procedures. And so facility managers woke up to discover an unexpected and unannounced Senator Truman at their door, pleasantly (but sternly) asking for admittance and cooperation. This is the kind of thing he found, this time at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri:

There “he found costly equipment and material lying about in the snow and rain ‘getting ruined, things that could never be used, would never be used…’ The contractor had no previous construction experience.’ And there were men, hundreds of men, just standing around collecting their pay, doing nothing’. Truman walked about this and other sites taking notes on what he saw and whatever people were willing to tell him.”

In due course, through one on-site visit after another and then informative Senate hearings showcasing the usual abuses, Truman captured the attention of America… and fueled by concerned, aggravated, irritated Americans he was able to effect dramatic changes and save millions of dollars needed elsewhere. They knew, Senator Truman knew, as we know — there is nothing Americans cannot accomplish together so long as we clearly understand the task and have an inspiring hard-working leader like Truman, willing to put shoe leather to pavement to achieve the goal. And by the way, if it hadn’t been for this work he would never have been selected by President Roosevelt for vice president in 1944 and thus would never have become president of the  United States.

President Obama take note.

This vast effort needs an elected leader, a big man or woman with grit, determination, perseverance — and a smile, the better to put a human face on the task, work and achievement of the goal, no mere bureaucratic inspector general will do. We need leadership and we need it now, capiche?

And remember, Diana Ross and The Supremes are here to help us aggrieved taxpayers. We need all the help we can get!

“You’re just using me Go on, get out of my life And let me sleep at night ‘Cause you don’t really love me You just keep me hangin’ on…

Why don’t you be a man about it And set me free Now you don’t care a thing about me You’re just using me.”

Exactly.

——————–

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc. , providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Dr. Lant is also a historian and author of 18 best-selling business books.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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  One Response to “Up to $60 billion squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan says The Wartime Contracting Commission. It’s time for massive overhaul.”

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