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‘More Abuse’: Warning of More Waste, Fraud in War Spending


Report: $60 billion lost in Iraq, Afghanistan wars (NBC Nightly News, Aug. 31, 2011) — A new report claims that about $60 billion in taxpayer money has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade of war. NBC’s Brian Williams reports. (00:23)

By Richard Lardner

August 31, 2011

WASHINGTON — The U.S. has lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stands to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awards and manages contracts for battlefield support and reconstruction projects, independent investigators said Wednesday.

The Wartime Contracting Commission urged Congress and the Obama administration to quickly put in place its recommendations to overhaul the contracting process and increase accountability. The commission even suggested that the joint House-Senate debt reduction committee take a close look at the proposals.

“What you’re asking for is more of the same,” said Dov Zakheim, a commission member and the Pentagon comptroller during President George W. Bush’s first term. “More waste. More fraud. More abuse.”

The bipartisan commission, created by Congress in 2008, estimated that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning, inadequate competition and corruption. “I personally believe that the number is much, much closer to $60 billion,” Zakheim said. …

“If these recommendations are not implemented, there ought to be a Hall of Shame,” said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission. “There’s an opportunity at hand.”

The commission’s 15 recommendations include creating an inspector general to monitor war zone contracting and operations, appointing a senior government official to improve planning and coordination among federal agencies, reducing the use of private security companies, and carefully monitoring contractor performance. …

The commission’s report said contracting waste in Afghanistan and Iraq could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes. That would leave the countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American money. …

Fraud includes bribery, kickbacks, bid rigging and defective products, according to the commission. …

“Paying villagers for what they used to do voluntarily destroyed local initiatives and diverted project goods into Pakistan for resale,” the commission said.

The Afghan insurgency’s second largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission. But the report does not say how much money has been funneled to the insurgency. The money typically is lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection, according to the report.

Full story


3/6/2013 Update

Report: Too Much Spent in Iraq for Too Little

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen has concluded that the U.S. has spent too much money in the country to achieve too few results

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen
(Photo credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

By Lara Jakes
National Security Writer

March 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — Ten years and $60 billion in American taxpayer funds later, Iraq is still so unstable and broken that even its leaders question whether U.S. efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation were worth the cost.

In his final report to Congress, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s conclusion was all too clear: Since the invasion a decade ago this month, the U.S. has spent too much money in Iraq for too few results.

The reconstruction effort “grew to a size much larger than was ever anticipated,” Bowen told The Associated Press in a preview of his last audit of U.S. funds spent in Iraq, to be released Wednesday. “Not enough was accomplished for the size of the funds expended.”

In interviews with Bowen, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the U.S. funding “could have brought great change in Iraq” but fell short too often. “There was misspending of money,” said al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim whose sect makes up about 60 percent of Iraq’s population.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, the country’s top Sunni Muslim official, told auditors that the rebuilding efforts “had unfavorable outcomes in general.”

“You think if you throw money at a problem, you can fix it,” Kurdish government official Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, told auditors. “It was just not strategic thinking.”

The abysmal Iraq results forecast what could happen in Afghanistan, where U.S. taxpayers have so far spent $90 billion in reconstruction projects during a 12-year military campaign that, for the most part, ends in 2014.

Shortly after the March 2003 invasion, Congress set up a $2.4 billion fund to help ease the sting of war for Iraqis. It aimed to rebuild Iraq’s water and electricity systems; provide food, health care and governance for its people; and take care of those who were forced from their homes in the fighting. Fewer than six months later, President George W. Bush asked for $20 billion more to further stabilize Iraq and help turn it into an ally that could gain economic independence and reap global investments.

To date, the U.S. has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants to help Iraq get back on its feet after the country that has been broken by more than two decades of war, sanctions and dictatorship. That works out to about $15 million a day.

And yet Iraq’s government is rife with corruption and infighting. Baghdad’s streets are still cowed by near-daily deadly bombings. A quarter of the country’s 31 million population lives in poverty, and few have reliable electricity and clean water.

Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the U.S. has spent at least $767 billion since the American-led invasion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. National Priorities Project, a U.S. research group that analyzes federal data, estimated the cost at $811 billion, noting that some funds are still being spent on ongoing projects. …

In numerous interviews with Iraqi and U.S. officials, and though multiple examples of thwarted or defrauded projects, Bowen’s report laid bare a trail of waste, including:

  •  In Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, a crossroads for Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents and Kurdish squatters, the U.S. began building a 3,600-bed prison in 2004 but abandoned the project after three years to flee a surge in violence. The half-completed Khan Bani Sa’ad Correctional Facility cost American taxpayers $40 million but sits in rubble [link added], and Iraqi Justice Ministry officials say they have no plans to ever finish or use it.
  • Subcontractors for Anham LLC, based in Vienna, Va., overcharged the U.S. government thousands of dollars for supplies, including $900 for a control switch valued at $7.05 and $80 for a piece of pipe that costs $1.41. Anham was hired to maintain and operate warehouses and supply centers near Baghdad’s international airport and the Persian Gulf port at Umm Qasr.
  • A $108 million wastewater treatment center in the city of Fallujah [link added], a former al-Qaida stronghold in western Iraq, will have taken eight years longer to build than planned when it is completed in 2014 and will only service 9,000 homes. Iraqi officials must provide an additional $87 million to hook up most of the rest of the city, or 25,000 additional homes.
  • After blowing up the al-Fatah bridge in north-central Iraq during the invasion and severing a crucial oil and gas pipeline, U.S. officials decided to try to rebuild the pipeline under the Tigris River at a cost of $75 million. A geological study predicted the project might fail, and it did: Eventually, the bridge and pipelines were repaired at an additional cost of $29 million.
  • A widespread ring of fraud led by a former U.S. Army officer resulted in tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks and the criminal convictions of 22 people connected to government contracts for bottled water and other supplies at the Iraqi reconstruction program’s headquarters at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

In too many cases, Bowen concluded, U.S. officials did not consult with Iraqis closely or deeply enough to determine what reconstruction projects were really needed or, in some cases, wanted. As a result, Iraqis took limited interest in the work, often walking away from half-finished programs, refusing to pay their share, or failing to maintain completed projects once they were handed over. …

The missed opportunities were not lost on at least 15 senior State and Defense department officials interviewed in the report, including ambassadors and generals, who were directly involved in rebuilding Iraq. …

About a third of the $60 billion was spent to train and equip Iraqi security forces, which had to be rebuilt after the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbanded Saddam’s army in 2003. Today, Iraqi forces have varying successes in safekeeping the public and only limited ability to secure their land, air and sea borders. …

Full story


Related report

Report details mistakes made by U.S. in improvement projects for Iraq
(Michael Gordon, New York Times, March 6, 2013)


Related reports on this site

U.S. Taxpayers Help Fund Killing of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
(Aug. 17, 2011)

Endless U.S. War Price Tag Hits $4 Trillion (June 29, 2011)

Breathtaking Afghan Corruption (Dec. 2, 2010)

Afghanistan War Cost Too High (Nov. 13, 2010)

Colossal Taxpayer Waste in Iraq (Aug. 29, 2010)

Iraq Projects Down the Tubes (Nov. 21, 2009)

Iraqi Neglect Costs U.S. Taxpayers (April 29, 2009)

Trillion-Dollar Wars Since 9/11 (March 30, 2009)

Feds Widen Iraq Corruption Probe (Feb. 15, 2009)

Iraq Rebuilding ‘$100 Billion Failure’ (Dec. 14, 2008)

Billions Lost on Reconstruction Projects in Iraq (July 28, 2008)

Empty prison in Iraq a $40M ‘failure’ (Associated Press, July 28, 2008) — In this undated photograph released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Khan Bani Saad Correctional Facility, about 12 miles northeast of Baghdad, is seen with unused building materials nearby. The site is a chronicle of U.S. government waste, misguided planning, and construction shortcuts costing $40 million … Full story



One Year Ago — August 31, 2010

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties

One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.


Two Years Ago — August 31, 2009

Michele Bachmann ‘Lies in Christ’

Two years ago today, on August 31, 2009, I featured Bill Prendergast’s debunking of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s false claim that she had no interest in running for political office prior to being “called by God” to run for the Minnesota State Senate in 2000.


Three Years Ago — August 31, 2008

Campaign Against Michele Bachmann: Day 48

Three years ago today, on August 31, 2008 — the 48th day of my 2008 campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District — I visited the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul.

4 Responses to “Senseless Waste of U.S. Taxpayer Dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan”
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  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » End of Iraq War for US Says:

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    […] Senseless Waste of U.S. Taxpayer Dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Aug. 31, 2011) […]

  4. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Neverending U.S. War Price Tag Hits $4 Trillion Says:

    […] Senseless Waste of U.S. Taxpayer Dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Aug. 31, 2011) […]

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