In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today investigating security failures in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill raised significant concerns about the use of private contractors in volatile regions.
"Can you imagine the money we're wasting on private contractors who are not getting the job done?" asked McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, and a former Missouri State Auditor. "It's time for us to do a gut check on whether we should be relying on inept contractors instead of the best-trained military in the world. Why can't we use the best-trained military in the world to protect our most valued assets in our most dangerous places?"
Leon Panetta, in what will be his last Congressional testimony as Secretary of Defense, commended McCaskill's longstanding efforts to crack down on contracting waste, and noted the Pentagon's reliance on private contracts, saying "Let me commend you for the work you've done on these types of contracts...Right now we depend on contracting a great deal."
Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey were witnesses for today's hearing.
McCaskill, who is also Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, has been a Senate leader on investigating embassy security standards and the use of private contractors:
*In 2009, McCaskill's Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight held a hearing on security contracts at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, which revealed that the State Department had found that deficiencies by the contractor, ArmorGroup, had "endanger[ed] performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the US Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy."
*In 2010, in response to the hearing, McCaskill introduced legislation to require that the Secretaries of State and Defense establish and implement an appropriate ratio of U.S. government security personnel to private security contractors at U.S. missions where the United States is engaged in combat operations.
*New requirements included in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act as part of McCaskill's Comprehensive Wartime Contracting Reform legislation now require the State Department, Defense Department, and USAID to conduct risk analyses for the use of private security contractors in contingencies and to develop risk mitigation plans to eliminate such risks where identified.