The House Armed Services Committee met today for a hearing on Operational Contract Support: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon made the following statement available as prepared for delivery:
"This morning we were reminded once more of what a dangerous world we live in, and the risk many Americans take to serve our country abroad. My thoughts and prayers- together with those of this committee- are with the families of those we've lost in Libya.
"We meet today to receive testimony on Operational Contract Support, that is, the services our military buys to directly sustain operations like those in Afghanistan. According to a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Department of Defense spends, on average, nearly one-third of its entire budget contracting for services. And, while this committee and others in Congress have taken aggressive actions to reform the government's acquisition processes, most of our time and effort has been focused on major defense acquisition programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship.
"Perhaps this is because they are tangible and there is more a formal process used to procure hardware. Regardless, we don't spend nearly as much time addressing issues regarding the way the DOD contracts for services such as engineering, maintenance, logistics, and base support.
"Contracting for services cannot be taken lightly. Here is a fact --- one that I expect our witnesses will not challenge --- the U.S. military cannot today fulfill its responsibilities to our national security without a significant contribution by many hardworking folks that are not in the direct employment of the U.S. government. That fact extends to war zones too. Most of us are familiar with the term 'contingency contracting' which has been used over the last several years to refer to contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The term likely conjures up memories of money wasted on $600 toilet seats, funding that fuels corruption, and the loss of hearts and minds anytime armed security guards kill or injure civilians. But the goal of today's hearing is not to re-examine these, or other, incidents. There has already been extensive work to document these deficiencies and to capture lessons learned. The goal is to learn from the past and charter a way forward, because I think we can all agree that we will continue to be reliant on contractors for future operations.
"As such, the topic before us today is complex, but it is also important. We learned a lot of hard lessons on this issue in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were ill-prepared for the level of contracting that was required to support these missions and, as a result, outcomes suffered. In some cases those consequences were grave and brave Americans who lost their lives as a result.
"The question before us is how we can improve operational contract support outcomes -- from savings lives, to reducing waste and graft, to delivering a unity of effort consistent with our military commander's intent. This will require leadership and an emphasis on the importance of operational contract support.
"Excellence must be demanded in each of the requirements generation, contract award, and contract management phases. A prerequisite for excellence is planning and training like we fight. There are many recommendations that have been advanced to meet these goals and I look forward to exploring those recommendations in greater detail today.
"I am certain that our witnesses' testimony will help us and the Department of Defense, as we continue the mission in Afghanistan and prepare for the challenges that may come, here at home or around the globe."