Senate freshmen seek stronger oversight of wartime contractors

Frustrated over billions of dollars wasted on Iraq reconstruction projects, nine freshmen senators Wednesday introduced legislation that would establish an independent commission on wartime contracting.

The freshmen, led by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jim Webb, D-Va., had hoped to attach the provision as an amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill, but quickly introduced it as a stand-alone measure after Senate leaders pulled the defense measure Wednesday morning.

An eight-member commission created by the bill would review the federal government's growing reliance on contractors during wartime, as well as the extent of abuse and mismanagement on those contracts.

The bill also expands the authority for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction to include oversight of all support contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The office's current authorization is limited to audits of Iraq reconstruction and relief funds.

"SIGIR's excellent performance in uncovering waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq reconstruction contracts is proof of its ability to conduct a more comprehensive inter-agency examination of wartime contracts," according to a summary of the bill.

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