Military continues to struggle with wartime contracting

Despite knowing it would need heavy contractor support for war operations, the military wasn't ready to manage the contractors -- and still isn't, commission finds.

The government has lost more than $30 billion to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, reports the Commission on Wartime Contracting. The number could be closer to $60 billion, the commission has found.

The bipartisan commission released its final report to Congress on Aug. 31, outlining its findings on making wartime contracting more effective while minimizing fraud and waste. Among the other key points:

  • Total spending on contractors in the war zones will exceed $206 billion in the next month.
  • Due to reductions in the federal acquisition workforce and in military support units in the 1990s, the government can’t conduct large or sustained contingency operations – including war – without contractor support.
  • Despite having known for 20 years that such contractor support would be necessary, the Defense Department was not prepared to manage the contractors effectively when combat operations began and still doesn't have the needed capabilities.
  • The familiar trinity of waste, fraud and abuse are all problems in Afghanistan and Iraq, but waste is by far the biggest problem.
  • The causes of waste include "poor decision-making, vague contract requirements, lack of adequately trained federal oversight people in the field, duplicative or unnecessary work, failure to revise or recompete contracts, unsustainable projects, inadequate business processes among contractors, and delayed audits,” said Commission Co-chair Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

Download the full report here.