EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR DEFENSE, THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, AND TSUNAMI RELIEF, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 15, 2005)
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Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, as the Members know, all of us in our country want to have our troops to have what they need when they go into harm's way. Sadly, that was not the case in the last 2 years. I hope that the $82 billion in this bill will redress some of those shortcomings, shortfalls, that our troops have had to suffer because they did not have the proper equipment. Never again should America send our troops into harm's way without the equipment they need to keep them safe and to bring them home as soon as they have finished their job.
I rise, Mr. Chairman, to commend the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney) and the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Leach) for putting forth a very critical amendment to appropriate funds for a select committee to study the awarding and carrying out of government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I said, we want our troops to have what we need. We must be sure that the taxpayer's dollar is spent wisely.
In their bipartisan work, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney) and the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Leach) have made clear that accountability in government is not a partisan issue. Their leadership has set the right tone for this vital debate.
In 1941, Mr. Chairman, Senator Harry Truman got in his car and drove all across the United States, making unannounced visits to defense plants and corporate offices. The people running the plants did not recognize then Senator Truman. They did not bother to hide the corruption and waste that characterized their operations.
This was at a time when Senator Truman was in a Democratic-majority Senate, there was a Democratic majority in the House, there was a Democrat in the White House, and our country was in a world war. But when he came home to Washington, Truman called the trip ``an eye opener,'' and he soon introduced a resolution to create the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. I repeat, at a time of a Democratic House and Senate and White House, this Democratic Senator said we must subject this spending to investigation. It was estimated that by spending only $400,000 at the time, this Truman committee saved $15 billion. And it earned Senator Truman the gratitude of the entire Nation.
Today we are considering whether to appropriate another $80 billion to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in addition to the more than $200 billion that has already been made available. Spending of this magnitude demands strict accounting.
Today it would be impossible to walk into a defense plant unannounced, of course; but while security measures have changed, our American values of accountability have not. There are honest differences about defense policy, but we should all agree in a bipartisan way that taxpayer money should always be spent efficiently and effectively.
Sadly, the stories of abuse on contracts in Iraq are everywhere:
Nearly $9 billion spent on Iraq reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management.
The Pentagon's own auditors have now concluded that Halliburton overcharged by more than $100 million under its no-bid Iraqi oil contract. $100 million.
A firm was paid $15 million to provide security for civilian flights into Baghdad, even though no planes flew during the term of the contract. This is a disgrace.
This may be just the tip of the iceberg, though. We simply do not know. That is what we want to find out. We do know who has paid the price for this waste and corruption: American troops and American taxpayers.
Our first priority must always be to force protection; yet sloppy contracting has meant that money has been wasted that could have been spent to provide our troops the equipment they need to do their jobs and protect themselves.
Recently, we learned that a contract for bulletproof ceramic plate inserts was awarded to a contractor who had no practical means of producing them. It took 167 days for troops in Iraq to start receiving the insert, 167 days. How many injuries? How many deaths? We do not know.
For taxpayers, every dollar that is wasted on corruption, and that is what this is, profiteering on the war is corruption, and incompetence, is one less dollar to pay down record deficits or to make Social Security solvent.
Harry Truman led the way for a Democratic Congress to conduct oversight of a Democratic administration. In doing so, he created a bipartisan consensus that gave the public confidence in the war effort. We can and we must do the same today.
The amendment offered by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Tierney) and the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Leach) would allow Congress to monitor the contracting process better, to meet the needs of our troops better, and to safeguard taxpayer dollars better.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment and in doing so to support accountability in government spending and to stop the profiteering on the war in Iraq.
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