Iraq contracting official returns to Pentagon post
Deidre Lee, the Defense Department's procurement and acquisition chief, was assigned temporarily to Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority in October to oversee the contracting process, which had come under fire for a lack of transparency and allegations of political favoritism.
Lee's biggest task was to shepherd the release of more than $18 billion in requests for proposals on an array of Iraq reconstruction work. Those RFPs were issued Wednesday, after several weeks' delay. Now that they've been issued, Lee's office will move from a facility in Arlington, Va., to the Pentagon, where she will resume her Defense acquisition duties.
Lee's tenure at the Coalition Provisional Authority lasted nearly three months, though she was initially assigned to the agency for only 30 days. Now that she is returning full-time to her Defense acquisition duties, it's unclear how much of an oversight role she will have in the management of Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Day-to-day oversight of such contracts will likely fall to Lee's successor in the Coalition Provisional Authority, and sources said the Defense Department was in the process of selecting that individual. An industry source, who asked not to be identified, said the replacement would be named imminently, and is someone with experience managing major infrastructure projects like those being undertaken in Iraq.
The Army Corps of Engineers will be in charge of executing many of the reconstruction contracts, and will manage new ones as well, a military spokesman said. For instance, the Corps will issue contracts to manage Iraq's southern and northern oil fields "in the near future," the spokesman said. He added that the agency also would monitor the new RFPs, which cover several vital infrastructure sectors-such as electrical and communications work-and administrative support functions. The agency is listed as the contracting office for most of the major reconstruction RFPs issued Wednesday.
Observers never expected Lee's job would be an easy one. When she came onboard, the coalition authority was still in the process of establishing offices in Baghdad and Washington, and the details of how the contracting process would be administered were murky.
"It is a job with enormous challenges," said Stan Soloway, a former Defense acquisition official and a personal friend of Lee's. That challenge isn't diminished now that Lee is leaving, Soloway said.