An investigation into U.S. spending in Iraq and Afghanistan finds as much as $60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud.
The conclusion is the result of a nearly three-year-long investigation into the use of contractors in the two war zones. The report, by an independent panel and submitted to Congress Wednesday, also warns that the amount of money lost will continue to grow unless significant changes are made.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, who pushed Congress to create the commission, says it was, as she put it, “disgusting” that nearly a third of the billions of U.S. dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan had been squandered. She describes the prevalence of waste and fraud as “shocking.”
The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan started work in 2008, holding dozens of hearings at the urging of McCaskill and fellow Democratic Senator Jim Webb. It examined more than $200 billion spent on contracts and grants through the end of this year.
The panel concluded at least $31 billion has been wasted on projects run by private companies and individuals, both from the U.S. and in Iraq and Afghanistan, who were hired by the U.S. government. But it said the actual amount lost was likely closer to $60 billion.
The report says waste is the biggest problem, driven by poor decision making, vague requirements and a lack of training. It says another key problem is the funding of large projects that Iraq and Afghanistan cannot sustain on their own once U.S. personnel leave.
The report also alleges that some U.S. funds for construction projects in Afghanistan wound up in the hands of insurgents battling American troops.
Additionally, the final report criticizes Washington for its over-reliance on contractors, saying officials knew well in advance of the wars that the U.S. government could not sustain any long-term military action on its own. And it raises questions about the use of private military contractors, criticized in the past for the use of excessive force against civilians in Iraq.
The 240-page report says much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided with the use of better oversight and other safeguards. It makes 15 recommendations for preventing similar problems in the future.
In May, the Congressional Research Service reported that the United States had 155,000 private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to 145,000 uniformed personnel.
The commission was modeled after the Truman Committee, which examined U.S. wartime spending following World War Two.