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Hearing of the National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform - "Where is the Peace Dividend? Examining the Final Report to Congress of the Commission on Wartime Contracting"

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman John Tierney, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, released the following statement during a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing examining the final Commission on Wartime Contracting report.

In 2005, Congressman John Tierney co-authored legislation, with then-Congressman Jim Leach (R-IA), to establish a select committee to conduct oversight on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation is credited for leading the way to the Senate version of the bill and the creation of the Commission of Wartime Contracting.

A copy of Congressman Tierney's opening statement is below:

OPENING STATEMENT

REP. JOHN F. TIERNEY

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

Hearing on "Where is the Peace Dividend? Examining the Final Report to Congress of the Commission on Wartime Contracting"

October 4, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Mr. Chairman for calling this hearing today. And thank you to the commissioners for your three years of hard work and extraordinary service. I authored, and was pleased to have my Republican colleague Jim Leach of Iowa co-sponsor, the legislation to create the Commission on Wartime Contracting and so I take a special pride in your success behind the steady leadership of Mike Thibault and my friend and former colleague, Chris Shays.

The Commission's authorizing legislation charged it with identifying the scope of wasteful contingency contracting and recommending reforms.

The results of your work are sobering. Billions of dollars have been wasted by agencies that have little capacity to manage their contractors or hold them accountable. Billions of dollars more have been dedicated to projects that were poorly conceived and are unsustainable by the host government.

These findings are consistent with this Committee's oversight of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year, I led a six-month Subcommittee investigation of a $2 billion Department of Defense trucking contract in Afghanistan. Our investigation found that the trucking contract had spawned a vast protection racket in which warlords, criminals and insurgents extorted contractors for protection payments to obtain safe passage. Our investigation further showed that senior officials within the U.S. military contracting chain of command had been aware of the problem but had done little to address it.

Two weeks ago, the National Security Subcommittee had a follow-up hearing with three Department of Defense witnesses to address these issues. I asked Gen. Townsend, the director of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell at the Joint Staff, whether contractor protection payments to warlords, powerbrokers and insurgents are necessary for safe passage in Afghanistan. He said they were and "in many cases they don't have a choice."

I then asked Gary Motsek, the head of contingency contracting at DOD, whether such payments are legal under U.S. law. He stated that they were absolutely not legal. In other words, the Department of Defense designed a critical contract in which it is "necessary" for the contractors to make illegal protection payments that in many cases fund the very forces that attack our troops.

I fear that the Committee's and the Commission's investigations are only the tip of the iceberg. Much of the Afghan economy now centers around the U.S. and international military presence. Many of the Afghan elite have their own logistics contracts with the United States and a significant portion of these funds seem to end up supporting the Dubai real estate market rather than jobs in Afghanistan.

Today, the business of Afghanistan is war. How can we ever hope to extricate ourselves from that war when so many Afghans benefit from the insecurity that is used to justify our continued presence? To my mind, we have crossed a tipping point in which the size of our military footprint inadvertently fosters further instability. Every additional soldier and every additional supply convoy that we send to Afghanistan further fuels this cycle of dependence, corruption and endless war.

Simply stated, we cannot afford to fail at getting a handle on contingency contracting waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only does it squander precious taxpayer resources, it can seriously undermine the mission and even fund those who attack our brave men and women in uniform.

In that vein, I have introduced legislation to establish a Special Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations. The efforts of the Commission, along with SIGIR and SIGAR, have shown the critical importance of real-time oversight in our overseas operations. We need to preserve the unique capabilities of these three entities in a single, permanent inspector general with a flexible, deployable cadre of oversight specialists. I urge my colleagues to join me in this legislation.

Finally, I am also working to tackle many of the Commission's other legislative reform recommendations. This is a challenging task but your great work will serve as the blueprint for our efforts going forward.

Commissioners, thank you again for your service and your testimony here today. I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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