After a sustained six year effort, Congress today gave final approval to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill's historic wartime contracting reforms-the most substantial overhaul of how the federal government contracts during wartime since World War II. The majority of McCaskill's Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act was adopted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved by both the House and Senate. The legislation now heads to the President for signature into law.
"Seeing years of work culminate in reforms that will save our country billions of dollars makes this one of the most satisfying days I've had in the U.S. Senate," said McCaskill, former State Auditor of Missouri and Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. "Harry Truman set the bar more than 70 years ago for cracking down on war profiteering-and I'm proud to be able to add another Missouri chapter to that effort."
The Senate recently included McCaskill's provisions in its version of the NDAA, and a conference committee was then formed to reconcile differences with the U.S. House version of the legislation, which did not contain any related wartime contracting reform provisions. After hard fought negotiations with the House, the conference's final report included the vast majority of the wartime contracting provisions. McCaskill pledged to use her second term in office to revisit some provisions that were not fully adopted-noting that pressure from lobbyists representing large contractors successfully fought to exclude language boosting the government's suspension and debarment of wasteful contractors, as well as language to eliminate what are known as pass-through contracts.
"There are a lot of special interests in the contracting community that just don't want the spigot turned off, and don't want to face greater accountability for their work, and they fought hard to avoid oversight," McCaskill said. "But we got 95 percent of what we wanted and needed to get in the final bill-and I plan to keep building on this victory and to keep protecting taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse."
The wartime contracting provisions adopted build upon recommendations issued last year by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, created through legislation passed in 2007 by McCaskill and Senator Jim Webb (Va.), and modeled after President Harry Truman's crusade to combat the wasteful war profiteering that occurred during World War II. In its final report to Congress, issued after three years of investigation, the Commission found that the U.S. had squandered up to $60 billion through waste and fraud on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The wartime contracting reforms included in the NDAA will improve contracting practices and accountability across the federal government by:
Elevating oversight responsibility, improving management structures, expanding planning requirements, and reforming contracting practices during overseas contingency operations;
Requiring departments and agencies to assess contracting risk in overseas contingency operations and reduce unnecessary reliance in areas including private security contracting;
Establishing responsibilities for Inspectors General to oversee all aspects of overseas contingency operations;
Improving the contracting process through greater transparency, competition, and professional education; and
Instituting additional provisions for accountability by contractors and the federal government, including limits that require proof that development projects are sustainable, prior to providing funding for such projects in overseas contingencies.