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Letter to John McHugh, Secretary of the Army; and to Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army - SIGAR Referrals

December 5, 2012

The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
1600 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-1600

The Honorable Raymond Odierno
Chief of Staff of the Army
1600 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-1600

Dear Secretary McHugh and General Odierno:

We write to express our serious concern over the growing backlog of referrals pending before the Department of the Army's Suspension and Debarment Official, specifically those referrals made by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). An effective and timely suspension and debarment process is critical to ensuring appropriate use of taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan, as well as for preventing these funds from flowing to criminal and terrorist networks.

As you are well aware, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness has set a goal of completing referrals from an inspector general or investigative agency within 30 days. SIGAR uses its investigation and audit capacity -- the largest of any agency present in Afghanistan -- to inspect contractors who are inefficient or who are suspected of waste, fraud and abuse. It is the responsibility of the Army to ensure that all suspension and debarment referrals from SIGAR are processed in a timely fashion in order to stop any uncovered abusive practices as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, significant time lapses between referrals and debarment action often allow more money to flow to corrupt or poorly performing contractors. For example, SIGAR reports that between June 2011 and June 2012, the average time to process a debarment referral was a total of 323 days. In fact, as of November 8, SIGAR had 60 referrals pending before the Army's suspension and debarment branch. Three of these cases have been pending for over a year.

Making matters worse, 43 of the debarment recommendations made by SIGAR and based on findings from U.S. Central Command and the Department of Commerce involve individuals or companies with links to terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda. We believe these 43 cases deserve special attention from the Army due to the nature of their allegations.

These facts raise serious questions about the length of the suspension and debarment process at the Army, as well as the risk that taxpayer dollars are reaching terrorist groups. Our reconstruction assistance funding is being spent at a rapid pace and far from public scrutiny. We have an important watchdog in place in Afghanistan working to address this and other concerns, and we are certain you would agree that agencies and contractors should pay appropriate attention to its recommendations.

With these concerns in mind, we ask that you closely review the 43 cases involving terrorist groups that are still pending before the suspension and debarment branch. In addition, we ask that you ensure the Army processes future referrals from Afghanistan in a deliberate and timely manner, especially those cases involving individuals or companies with suspected links to terrorist groups. We respectfully request a detailed response and action plan regarding this important matter within 30 days.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and your continued service on behalf of our men and women in uniform and our nation.

Sincerely,

Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-C.T.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas)


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