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IPFS News Link • Government Waste

War-zone contracting escapes close scrutiny

Two years ago, President Obama announced plans to reduce the government's penchant for hiring private contractors to carry out duties in war zones, and to better monitor their efforts.

Yet as of the end of fiscal 2010, the ratio of contract employees to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan was almost 1-to-1, with nearly 200,000 private workers and 202,100 U.S. troops in the two countries.

The problem lies in the federal government's ability to adequately oversee such a massive contract contingent. According to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, the U.S. government has spent approximately $177 billion in the past decade for private companies to handle construction, transportation, food services, training and security in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that is just an estimate, because there is no central database to account for what has been spent on contracts and grants, nor is there any definitive investigation into how much of that total has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse. There also is little review of whether projects are duplicative, efficient or even necessary.

The commission calculates that "tens of billions of dollars have failed to achieve their intended use in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to an interim study draft report obtained by the Associated Press.