DOD: Wartime contracting reforms underway

The Defense Department said Aug. 31 it had begun to reform portions of its contingency contracting operations even before the Wartime Contracting Commission released its final report that found at least $31 billion was lost to fraud and waste since the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defense officials have increased the prosecution of fraudulent contractors and boosted the department’s overall acquisition workforce, including contracting officer representatives, who manage a contract after it has been awarded and then play an important part in avoiding waste, DOD said.

“We have already implemented a number of steps to improve contingency contracting based on the department’s own analysis, as well as recommendations from the independent reviews of the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general, and the commission’s previous publications and interim reports,” said Marine Col. Dave Lapan, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations.

“Monitoring, assessing, and taking corrective action is a continuous process within the department, and we continually improve our planning, oversight, and the management of contractors on the battlefield,” he added.

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As for reforms, DOD is introducing more military personnel into the acquisition workforce and training them to supervise contractors and officials are also establishing a Joint Theater Support Contracting Command at the U.S. Central Command, as well as policy and planning requirements for contractor support during operations in future contingencies, DOD said.

Officials are working to boost competition in contingency contracting operations by competing a new Logistics Civil Augmentation Program contract. They want more companies bidding for task orders so that under the LOGCAP IV contract there will be ongoing competition between them throughout the contract’s life, they said.

“The commission has focused on a set of serious issues that the department has also identified as lessons learned from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Lapan said.

In its final report to Congress, the Wartime Contracting Commission in Iraq and Afghanistan said DOD needs to improve planning for how it will use contracts and strengthen its contract management and oversight. Contracts need more competition, and officials have to coordinate better with other agencies, including the State Department. If officials see problems, they need to modify or cancel U.S.-funded projects that host nations cannot sustain.

The report will play into coming activity in Congress. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing on the commission’s report when the Senate returns from its recess.

“This report provides further proof that vigorous management of contracts is central to successful outcomes — in government and in business. That is a lesson that must be applied not only to wartime contracting but to contracting across all federal agencies,” Lieberman said.

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations Oversight Subcommittee, said he would introduce legislation to create a permanent inspector general for contingency operations starting with Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Commission on Wartime Contracting’s conclusions are alarming, and its recommendations must be taken seriously by Congress,” Tierney said. He expects to introduce a bill in early September.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who investigates federal contracting policies and problems, said the misspending the commission's work uncovered is “disgusting.”

“We cannot repeat these mistakes. The American people deserve better,” she said.

McCaskill is the chairwoman of both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Contracting Oversight Committee and the Armed Services Committee’s Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee.

McCaskill teamed with Sen. Jim Webb (R-Va.) in 2007 to establish an independent, bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. The commission was modeled after the “Truman Committee” that investigated government waste and fraud during World War II.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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