During a Financial and Contracting Oversight Subcommittee hearing today, Senator Ayotte questioned contracting officials from the Defense Department, State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) about legislation she introduced that would allow procurement officials government-wide to more quickly sever ties with contractors who funnel taxpayer resources to enemies of the United States.
The "Never Contract with the Enemy" Act (S. 675), which Ayotte coauthored with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would expand and enhance provisions that Ayotte and former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) successfully included in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that gave Pentagon procurement officials in the Central Command area of operations the ability to more easily sever ties with contractors who funnel tax dollars to those who are working against the United States and our interests.
In response to questioning from Ayotte, Dick Ginman, Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, praised the legislation Senator Ayotte worked to include in the Fiscal Year 2012 NDAA, testifying that it has helped save $31 million in U.S. taxpayer money from going to enemies of the United States. On S. 675, he said, "I'm in agreement with...what it says and where it goes."
Undersecretary of State for Management, Patrick Kennedy, also voiced support for the Ayotte-Blumenthal legislation, saying, "[i]f you gave me that authority, I would gladly take it."
During an exchange with USAID's top procurement official, Aman Djahanbani, Ayotte pressed him for the agency's views on her legislation. While Djahanbani claimed today that USAID has a "robust vetting system in Afghanistan," Ayotte pointed out that the Commission on Wartime Contracting's final report to Congress identified serious gaps in a USAID project in Kunar Province.
"[I]f it's so rigorous and you think that you have the authorities you [need], then why did the Commission on Wartime Contracting find that Afghan sucontractors on a USAID community development program in Kunar Province were paying up to 20 percent of their total subcontract value to the insurgents for "protection,' and that USAID's Inspector General estimated that over $5 million of program funding was at risk for falling into insurgents' hands?" she asked. "...I find it hard to believe that you have the authorities you need right now to address this problem."