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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CARNAHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My amendment integrates duplicative functions related to overseas contingency operation planning, management, and oversight into the U.S. Office for Contingency Operations--responding to a litany of concerns that have been raised in recent years pointing to the mismanagement of U.S. tax dollars in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, last August, the Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that as much as $30 billion to $60 billion may have been lost due to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poor accountability and oversight has also undermined the effectiveness of U.S. operations.

As the commission's report notes, there will be a next contingency, whether it takes the form of overseas hostilities or responding to emergencies like terror attacks, natural disasters, or other humanitarian crises. We must take action to ensure we are fully prepared for these scenarios.

Systemic problems within the U.S. Government have contributed to serious flaws in the preparation, management, and execution of contingency operations. Currently, responsibilities for these initiatives are spread over several U.S. departments and agencies, resulting in diffused accountability. While there have been positive steps to address issues of coordination, a great deal more needs to be done.

In fact, many of our key allies in NATO already have agencies or offices with cross-cutting functions, similar to that proposed in my amendment, that reflect the nature of the 21st century security challenges we face. It will certainly require an act of this body to streamline our system. More importantly, it is our duty as Members of Congress to exercise the strict oversight of conflict and stabilization initiatives. As then-Senator Harry Truman found when fighting the waste and mismanagement of funding during World War II, effective congressional oversight cannot only save lives and money, it makes our efforts stronger.

For these reasons, I have worked over the past couple of years to develop this legislation, with many others' input, that integrates duplicative functions into one streamlined office. It further ensures the proper acquisition, planning, contract management, and enhanced inspector general oversight to protect our resources from waste, fraud, and abuse. Beyond safeguarding spending, it promotes the readiness and safety of our deployed personnel and of our overall ability to effectively execute operations.

Chairman McKeon, I understand you have raised some questions with regard to this amendment. I respect your points that you have made, and will be withdrawing this amendment. However, I would like to work with you and the committee in responding to these issues so we then have an opportunity to move this concept forward. Specifically, I hope the Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on this legislation and work toward incorporating its goals during the conference committee of this authorization bill.

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