We imagine the lobbyist stalking the halls of Congress trying to use cash to influence important people. But it doesn’t always work that way. Often, the Congressman is stalking the lobbyist, asking for money. ~ NPR, Money in PoliticsSeries
Army probes drug use by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
Lolita C. Baldor – (The Associated Press) – WASHINGTON – April 21, 2012 – The U.S. Army has investigated 56 soldiers in Afghanistan on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011, newly obtained data shows. Eight soldiers died of drug overdoses during that time.
While the cases represent just a slice of possible drug use by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they provide a sombre snapshot of the illicit trade in the war zone, including young Afghans peddling heroin, soldiers dying after mixing cocktails of opiates, troops stealing from medical bags and Afghan soldiers and police dealing drugs to their U.S. comrades.
In a country awash with poppy fields that provide up to 90 per cent of the world’s opium, the U.S. military struggles to keep an eye on its far-flung troops and monitor for substance abuse.
But U.S. Army officials say that while the presence of such readily available opium — the raw ingredient for heroin — is a concern, opiate abuse has not been a pervasive problem for troops in Afghanistan. (Click HERE for article)
Government Worker Claims Rape on the Job
Iulia Filip – (Courthouse News) – MONTGOMERY, Ala. – April 20, 2012 – The U.S. government faces federal claims that a manager in the Defense Department harassed and repeatedly raped a contract worker.
Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – March 28, 2012 – U.S. taxpayers unknowingly fund human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan because of poor contractor oversight–but bipartisan Members of Congress are cracking down on this deplorable crime. A new bill introduced on Monday in the House and the Senate incorporates many of POGO’s recommendations for stopping U.S. contractors and subcontractors from getting away with modern-day slavery. Some contractors may complain, but both versions of the bill deserve resounding support from the public.
The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (S. 2234 and H.R. 4259) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) respectively, along with many notable cosponsors. The legislation is the long-awaited response to a variety of reports from war zones over the course of several years—including the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report, which found “tragic evidence of the recurrent problem of trafficking in persons by labor brokers or subcontractors of contingency contractors.”
Pete Kasperowicz – (The Hill) – March 27, 2012 – A bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate proposed legislation on Monday that seeks to crack down on human trafficking by contractors that the U.S. military hires for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act is a reaction to reports from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the inspectors general of the Defense and State departments that overseas contractors are known to engage in practices that are illegal under U.S. employee rights standards. These include seizing workers’ passports to trap them at a work site, lying about compensation, engaging in sexual abuse and generally keeping workers in a state of indentured servitude.
While this article seems to point out the negative aspects of the automatic suspension of contractors there obviously needs to be consequences for illegal activity. The blatant fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars have gone on far too long.
The automatic suspension requirement is a bad idea in the eyes of many experts. The Wartime Contracting Commission, backed off its earlier support for the automatic action in its final report. Commission members had concerns that the government doesn’t use its suspension authority enough. Early on, commissioners had said that the government needed to mandate suspensions.
The “sweep it under the rug” technique of oversight has only encouraged and bolstered the bravado of those with criminal intent. Until accountability is enforced and there are tangible repercussions for those who commit crimes, nothing will change. Punishment in the form of fines doesn’t seem to have an effect. Then again it is hard to ignore the fact that when a contractor incurs a monetary penalty the Pentagon generally turns around and awards them a new contract to offset the loss, sometimes on the same day a punishment is announced. I have to wonder if there isn’t an “in case we get caught” clause factored into bid proposals, to cover fines and legal fees.
If suspension and debarment are not the answer, then give us an effective alternative!
Matthew Weigelt – (Washington Technology) – March 19, 2012 – Four Democratic senators are advocating an unrelenting crackdown on defense contractors through automatic suspensions for allegations of bad behavior related to an overseas contingency operation.
The bill requires that the Chair of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) select one of three current Inspectors General (IG)—DoD IG, State IG, and USAID IG—to lead oversight of contingency operations. That IG would be responsible for resolving conflicts of jurisdiction between the IGs, authorizing the employment of temporary auditors and investigators, and submitting to Congress a bi-annual report containing detailed information about its activities and the activities of the agencies engaged in the contingency operation. The bill would improve oversight of contingency operations by IGs, but it is less ambitious than the CWC’s recommendation for a permanent IG for contingency operations. Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) has introduced legislation that is closer to the CWC’s recommendation.