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Peter Van Buren – (Huffington Post) – May 14, 2012 – The New York Times reports that the State Department, in the face of massive costs and Iraqi officials who say they never wanted it in the first place, slashed and may soon dump entirely “a multibillion-dollar police training program in Iraq that was to have been the centerpiece” of post-occupation US presence in Iraq. After all of five months.
In October I reported on my blog wemeantwell.com that the State Department was on Capitol Hill in front of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations, begging a skeptical Congress for more money for police training in Iraq. “Training” was again being cited as the cure-all for America’s apparently insatiable desire to throw money away in Mesopotamia. That latest tranche of taxpayer cash sought by State was one billion dollars a year, every year for five years, to pay police instructors and cop salaries in Iraq.
The U.S. has been training Iraqi cops for years. In fact, the U.S. government has spent $7.3 billion for Iraqi police training since 2003. Ka-ching! Anybody’s hometown in need of $7.3 billion in Federal funds? Hah, you can’t have it if you’re American, it is only for Iraq!
Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – October 28, 2011 – The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) managed to release an audit on the State Department’s poor handling of the Iraqi police force program on Monday, despite the agency’s aggressive attempts to stonewall the investigation. According to the critical report, the Department has no specific plan to effectively assess the Iraqi police program as the U.S. pulls out of Iraq.
The State Department (DoS) has refused to make life easy for the SIGIR. The Washington Times reported in June that DoS was blocking inspectors from assessing the State’s multi-billion dollar Iraqi police training program.
In a hearing with the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, DoS’s Under Secretary of State for Management, justified the decision by claiming SIGIR didn’t have jurisdiction for the investigation. He said, “SIGIR is perfectly free…to audit the reconstruction activities in Iraq. They are not free to audit the base element of the State Department. That is within the jurisdiction of three other entities.”
Stuart Bowen, the SIGIR himself, begged to differ. He told The Times, “It is simply a misapprehension to conclude that our jurisdiction only applies to bricks-and-mortar reconstruction. To the contrary, Congress charged us with overseeing the expenditure of funds in Iraq.”
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) succinctly said in a recent hearing: “I don’t think there’s ever too many auditors.”
(To watch the entire hearing click HERE)
Charles S. Clark – (GovExec) – September 22, 2011 – Harry Truman “would be shocked,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told a Senate panel Wednesday during the final hearing on the expiring Wartime Contracting Commission that was modeled on World War II anti-corruption investigations led by the 33rd president.
Nearly one-third of the $206 billion that the United States has spent on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan could have been wasted, the commission reported in August, and senators fear the same mistakes will be repeated in future war zones.
“We must know why we are contracting, who we contract with, and what we are paying for a particular service or function,” McCaskill said. “It is just shameful that, despite the great work of the commission and the community of auditors and inspectors general who have reviewed these contracts, that we don’t know — and may not ever know — those simple things about the contracts awarded in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Rare ailment found in Iraq, Afghanistan vets
(Detroit Free Press) – July 24, 2011 – Researchers in Tennessee say they’ve discovered scarring inside small airways in the lungs of U.S. troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, causing a rare condition called constrictive bronchiolitis.
The cause of the scarring — and the number of troops that may have it — isn’t yet clear. But the findings, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could help veterans prove disabilities stemming from their war service.
“These guys had very believable stories,” said Dr. Robert Miller of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “They were elite athletes. … Now, they can’t run 2 miles.”
Although many were exposed to a 2003 sulfur-mine fire near Mosul, Iraq, not all were, so the cause remains a mystery. (Click HERE for article)
U.S. wastes $34 billion in Afghan and Iraq contracting
Phil Stewart – (Reuters) – WASHINGTON – July 23, 2011 – The United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study being finalized for Congress.
The findings by a bipartisan congressional commission were confirmed to Reuters by a person familiar with the draft of the study, which is due to be completed in coming weeks.
The analysis by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, details of which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, offers the most complete look so far at the misuse of U.S. contracting funds in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than $200 billion has been doled out in the contracts and grants over nearly a decade.
It also gives the most complete picture of the magnitude of the U.S. contracting workforce in the two countries.
The source, who declined to be named, said more than 200,000 contractors have been on the U.S. payroll at times in Iraq and Afghanistan — outstripping the number of U.S. troops currently on the ground in those countries. (Click HERE for article)
Kailua man admits aiding Marine to launder bribes
(Star Advertiser) – HAWAII – July 23, 2011 – A 40-year-old Kailua man admitted in federal court Friday that he helped a Marine Corps sergeant launder bribery money from military contractors in Iraq.
“A friend of mine was getting bribes. I was helping him conceal the bribes,” Francisco Mungia III said.
U.S. Plans Private Guard Force for Iraq
State Department Prepares to Hire 5,100-Strong Security Detail and Take Over Military Hardware for After Army Leaves
NATHAN HODGE – (WSJ) – WASHINGTON – June 7, 2011 – The State Department is preparing to spend close to $3 billion to hire a security force to protect diplomats in Iraq after the U.S. pulls its last troops out of the country by year’s end.
In testimony Monday before the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, said the department plans to hire a 5,100-strong force to protect diplomatic personnel, guard embassy buildings and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.
Underscoring the security risks in Iraq, five American troops were killed Monday in an attack in Baghdad, the largest single loss of life for the U.S. military there since April 2009.
Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Under a 2008 U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, all U.S. troops are supposed to leave the country by the end of the year, leaving behind only a small military office to oversee arms sales.
While U.S. officials have expressed a willingness to station a small residual force in the country, it is unclear if the Iraqi government will make the request, which faces strong opposition in Iraq.
A large U.S. diplomatic presence will remain, however, and the departments of state and defense are wrestling with how to provide security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—which is a target of rocket attacks—and diplomatic outposts in the provinces.
As the military withdraws, Mr. Kennedy said, the State Department will rely on contractors to carry out a range of military-style missions that he said were “not inherently governmental,” including providing emergency medical evacuation, operating systems to detect and warn against incoming rocket or artillery fire, or rescue diplomatic personnel under attack. (Click HERE for article)
DynCorp Has Refunded Money to U.S. for War Work Billings
Tony Capaccio – (Bloomberg) – June 6, 2011 DynCorp International Inc., the largest contractor in Afghanistan, has refunded a portion of $40.8 million to the U.S. State Department for work in Iraq and Afghanistan, department spokeswoman Susan Pittman said today.
The department also is asking DynCorp, of Falls Church, Virginia, to refund some portion of an additional $37.9 million in billings, she said.