Senate Democrats

REID: RUMSFELD MUST ANSWER FOR PENTAGON CRONYISM THAT PUT TROOPS AT RISK

Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, calling on the Pentagon chief to address the recent shocking revelations of widespread malpractice in the staffing of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Press reports over the past weekend assert that a senior Defense Department official rejected well-qualified candidates in favor of politically-connected and unqualified cronies for most key positions in CPA. With Iraq in civil war and our troops in greater danger due in part to the incompetence and mismanagement of the reconstruction of Iraq, it is imperative that the Secretary of Defense come clean with the Congress about the actions of individuals working under his authority.

The text of the letter follows below.

September 19, 2006

The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld

Secretary of Defense

The Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

Earlier this week, the American public learned about yet another deeply troubling Iraq policy decision by the Bush Administration that greatly jeopardizes our chances for success there. According to a new book “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Bush Administration officials based hiring decisions at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on political connections rather than substantive expertise, thereby harming our efforts to secure and stabilize Iraq. I believe it is essential that you address these charges when you appear before the Senate this Thursday and also indicate your support for and cooperation with a thorough investigation by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

According to a story in this weekend’s Washington Post adapted from Mr. Chandrasekaran’s book, the Defense Department official responsible for screening candidates for positions with the CPA is reported to have “sought resumes from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activities. He discarded applications for those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.” One young man was pronounced “an ideal candidate” when, according to this account, “his chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.” One staffer noted to a reporter over lunch, “I’m not here for the Iraqis, I’m here for George Bush.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the author concluded, “the decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 ½-year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush Administration’s gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people.”

Earlier today, Senators Durbin, Schumer and Lautenberg called upon Thomas Gimble, the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Defense, to investigate the Bush Administration’s hiring practices for the CPA. I hope this new information and its troubling consequences for our troop’s efforts in Iraq means you will support such an independent investigation.

I also call upon you to address these disturbing charges at your briefing to all Senators this Thursday and to express your support for a full and independent investigation by your Department’s Inspector General.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid

United States Senate

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