Lawmakers appalled by scale of contract fraud in Iraq

Members of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday they were saddened and appalled at the number of military officers and civilian officials implicated in as much as $6 billion in contract fraud in Iraq and by the mismanagement that left 190,000 weapons intended for Iraqi security forces unaccounted for.

Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., opened a hearing on incidents of bribery and fraud that occurred in a major contracting office in Kuwait by saying they "were so severe that I fear they represent a culture of corruption," a term repeated by others.

But a panel of senior defense acquisition and investigative officials attributed the rampant errors and abuse in contracting -- which have resulted in 10 convictions, 78 criminal indictments and audits into $88 billion in questionable contracts -- on lack of controls, poor leadership and an undermanned and untrained work force operating in a combat zone.

While it is important to have audits and investigations to find "the few bad actors," it is more important "that we put the proper controls in place," Thomas Gimble, the principal deputy Defense Department inspector general, told the committee. "There is no short-term solution. This is going to take a lot of work."

"We did not properly train our officers and enlisted personnel to operate in the environment they are in," said Shay Assad, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy and strategic sourcing. There also were no joint doctrines and policies to guide the people sent to handle the rapidly growing contracts for supplies and services, he said.

"It will come down to the fact that we didn't have the right leadership," said Peter Velz, the Defense secretary's foreign affairs specialist for Iraq.

And Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the Army acquisition and logistics executive, said the acquisition work force was too small and "never caught up" with the crush of service contracts, that now cost more a year than the procurement of major weapon systems.

Efforts are under way to correct all those problems, the officials said.

But those explanations failed to satisfy Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., both combat veterans.

"Dishonesty is not a reflection of manning levels," Hunter said.

Hunter said the committee had inserted language in the fiscal 2006 defense authorization requiring the Army to create three "contingency contract brigades" able to deploy rapidly to handle situations like the build up in Iraq.

Told that those brigades were just being formed two years later, Hunter said, "That's half the time it took us to win World War II."

"You may be moving in the right direction, but you're moving slowly," he said.

Kline observed that this was not the first time the U.S. military has been to war. "When are we going to have these controls in place?"

The Defense officials sought to deflect some of the committee's ire, noting that the Government Accountability Office, which reported last month it could not account for 30 percent of weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces, did not say weapons were actually missing.

The weapons went into Iraq by different means, some went directly to Iraqi troops and others to the warehouses, Velz said. "There just weren't enough people to document them" and no one can be sure if the weapons were ever transferred, he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.