Washington, DC–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have named a co-chair and three additional commissioners to the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Established as the result of legislation introduced by Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) last spring and signed into law January 28, 2008, the Commission is charged with addressing the systemic problems associated with the federal government’s wartime-support, reconstruction, and private security contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This Commission was inspired by the work of the “Truman Committee,” which conducted hundreds of hearings and investigations into government waste during and after World War II at an estimated savings of more than $178 billion (in today’s dollars) to the American taxpayer.
Since January 2007, Congress has taken an active role in investigating this problem, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and has passed legislation to tighten contracting and oversight rules associated with contracts awarded to private companies for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Eight commissioners will be named to the Commission by congressional senior leadership and President Bush. The four commissioners named today, following earlier consultations with the chairmen of the Senate and House committees of jurisdiction are:
- Michael J. Thibault, to serve as Co-Chair. Mike Thibault is a Director at Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NCI). Mr. Thibault has 34 years experience in government contract accounting, pricing, subcontract audit, federal contract compliance, regulatory compliance, cost accounting standards, and internal control systems audits and implementation. Prior to joining NCI, Mr. Thibault spent 31 years with the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) and was the DCAA Deputy Director from 1994-2005. Mr. Thibault earned a B.A. in Business (Accounting) from Southern Oregon University, and an M.A. in Management, from Central Michigan University. He holds a CPA with the State of Washington.
- Charles Tiefer. Charles Tiefer is a Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Professor Tiefer joined the faculty in 1995. Previously he served as acting general counsel, solicitor and deputy general counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 years. Professor Tiefer served in 1996 as deputy minority counsel of the U.S. House “Bosniagate”investigating sub-committee and in 1987 as special deputy chief counsel of the U.S. House Iran-Contra committee. He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. Professor Tiefer earned a B.A., summa cum laude, from Columbia College in 1974 and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1977. He is the author of the book “Government Contract Law: Cases and Materials.”
- Linda J. Gustitus. Linda Gustitus had a long distinguished career working in the U.S. Congress (1979-2002), serving as the Chief of Staff to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) (2002), as Democratic Staff Director, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management; Subcommittee on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Federal Services; Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, of the Governmental Affairs Committee for Senator Levin (1980-2001), and as Legislative Assistant to Senator Levin (1979). Ms. Gustitus also served as a Trial Attorney, Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (1977-1979) and as a prosecutor in the office of the Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney. Ms. Gustitus was an Adjunct Professor of Law at American University School of Law (2000-2006), George Washington University Graduate School of Public Policy (1994-1996), and the Washington Internship Institute (2003-2006), as well as a lecturer at the Government Affairs Institute, Georgetown University (1995-present). Ms. Gustitus earned a B.A., from Oberlin College in 1969, and a J.D., cum laude, from Wayne State University School of Law in 1975.
- Clark Kent Ervin. Since January 2005, Clark Ervin has served as Director of the Homeland Security Initiative at the Aspen Institute. Mr. Ervin served as the first Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, from January 2003 to December 2004. Prior to his service at DHS, he served as the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State, from 2001 to 2003. His service in the George W. Bush Administration is preceded by his service as the Associate Director of Policy in the White House Office of National Service in the George H.W. Bush Administration. A native Houstonian, Mr. Ervin served in the state government of Texas from 1995 to 2001, first as Assistant Secretary of State, and then as a Deputy Attorney General. He has practiced law twice in the private sector, with the Houston based firms of Vinson & Elkins, and Locke, Liddell, & Sapp, respectively. Mr. Ervin earned a B.A. degree, cum laude, in Government from Harvard in 1980, an M.A. degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University in 1982 as a Rhodes Scholar, and a J. D. degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1985. He is the author of the book “Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack.”
The White House and Republican congressional leadership separately have announced three of the remaining four appointments to the Commission.
“The cost of the war in Iraq has been heartbreaking—in terms of our troops and their families, our diminished military preparedness, our reputation in the world, the actual toll on our treasury, our nation’s deficit, and our economy as a whole,” said Speaker Pelosi. “The billions of dollars wasted by incompetence or fraud only compound the tragedy of the war in Iraq that was initiated on false intelligence. The work of this commission in both Iraq and Afghanistan is vital to our national security, our fiscal health, and our ability to put an end to the system that has allowed taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to be wasted and diverted away from our national priorities.”
“One of the principal lessons of the marketing and management of the Iraq war has been the importance of accountability and oversight,” said Senator Reid. “This Commission and these new commissioners take that lesson to heart in protecting Americans tax dollars from the waste, fraud and abuse we know are rampant in both U.S. contracts in Iraq and within the Iraqi government. Overseeing – not overlooking – careless wartime contracting is a vital part of our effort to lessen the many devastating costs of this war.”
“These appointments are a major step forward in creating a commission that will improve our government’s contracting practices, increase transparency, and hold accountable those responsible for waste, fraud and abuse,” said Senator Webb. “We will likewise be watching the selections of our colleagues in Congress and the White House to make sure that they perform in consonance with the intentions of this legislation. The work that this Commission will perform during its two-year charter is something American taxpayers both demand and deserve.”
“This is a key step in our mission to target the entrenched practices with wartime contracting that have led to billions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money,” said Senator McCaskill. “I commend Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi for choosing veterans of oversight and auditing, people who can immediately dive in and get to the core of this abuse and develop strong solutions to stop it.”
For more information on the Commission on Wartime Contracting, visit: http://webb.senate.gov/pdf/wtcontractbg.pdf
To contact any of the new appointees to the Commission, contact Jessica Smith at: 202-228-5185.
June 20, 2008
Iraq Contract Abuses and Mismanagement of Taxpayer Dollars Has Been Widespread
New Direction Congress Taking Action to Address
Contracting Abuses in Iraq
Today, House and Senate Democrats named four commissioners to the Commission on Wartime Contracting – an oversight panel established to address the systemic waste, fraud and abuse associated with the federal government’s wartime-support, reconstruction, and private security contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. taxpayers are outraged about the massive levels of waste, fraud and abuse that have been documented in large government contracts to well-connected firms, including many reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
Since 2003, the United States has appropriated nearly $45 billion for reconstruction contracts in Iraq – to rebuild everything from electric, oil and water infrastructure to security and law enforcement. The Defense Contract Audit Agency found more than $10 billion in questionable or unsupported charges in these Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Details of some of those charges are coming to light in a recent New York Times story about Charles M. Smith, a now-retired Army official, who managed the Pentagon’s KBR contracts in 2003 and 2004 before being “ousted” for refusing to approve more than $1 billion in questionable charges.
From the New York Times:
“Mr. Smith began warning KBR that he would withhold payments and performance bonuses until the company provided the Army with adequate data to justify the expenses…
“Mr. Smith also told KBR that, until the information was received, he would withhold 15 percent of all payments on its future work in Iraq…
“Mr. Smith discovered that he had been replaced when he went to a meeting with KBR officials and found a colleague there in his place.” [6/17/08]
Other recent examples of waste, fraud and abuse:
- In an audit released in May 2008, the Pentagon highlighted a large-scale mismanagement of funds by the U.S. Army.
- “A Pentagon audit of $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money spent by the United States Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received.” [New York Times, 5/23/08]
- “The audit also found a sometimes stunning lack of accountability in the way the United States military spent some $1.8 billion in seized or frozen Iraqi assets, which in the early phases of the conflict were often doled out in stacks or pallets of cash.” [New York Times, 5/23/08]
- According to an April 2008 audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:
- “Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.” [AP, 4/28/08]
- An estimated 855 reconstruction contracts were terminated before the projects were completed “primarily because of unforeseen factors such as violence and excessive costs.”[AP, 4/28/08]
- Of these, 112 contracts were ended because of “actual or anticipated failure to perform” the requirements of the project. [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Audit, 4/28/08]