State Department faulted in effort to train Iraqi police

The State Department lacks sufficient understanding and strategy for standing up the domestic police force in Iraq on the eve of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from that war zone, according to a report released Monday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

In their 200th report on the U.S. mission in Iraq, the auditors also complained that the department declined to cooperate in releasing all requested documents.

As newly assigned State advisers and veteran trainers from U.S. law enforcement work to trim and reduce the costs of maintaining the Police Development Program, the department "does not have a current assessment of Iraqi police forces' capabilities upon which to base its program," SIGIR wrote. "Such an assessment is essential for effective program targeting. Further, DoS does not have a sufficiently comprehensive and detailed PDP plan that provides specifics on what is to be accomplished, including intermediate and long-term milestones, benchmarks to assess progress and accomplishments, and transparency of and accountability for costs and performance outcomes."

Also worrisome, the auditors said, is that "only a relatively small portion of program funds -- about 12 percent -- will be used to pay for advising, mentoring and developing the Iraqi police forces. The vast preponderance of money will fund security and life support . . . [State] officials told us that they will seek ways to reduce costs of security, life support and other overhead."

State's representatives did not provide SIGIR with "sufficiently detailed data on current obligations, expenditures and budgets," the report said, nor have U.S. diplomats secured written commitments for continued financial support from the Iraq government. "We believe this audit raises serious concerns regarding the PDP's long-term viability," the auditors said.

State Department officials said they generally agreed with the recommendations and are planning their own report for release in November.

On the issue of providing documents to SIGIR, State officials are concerned that SIGIR's inquiries overlap with those from the Government Accountability Office and State's inspector general. State's legal adviser, Harold Honghu Koh, wrote a letter during the summer explaining that "the department has not questioned whether SIGIR has legal authority to audit the PDP" in areas affecting the agency's International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Account. But "we do not read the responsibilities assigned to SIGIR in its founding statute as extending more broadly to the department's operation in support of its diplomatic platform in Iraq." Those operations and accounts activities, Koh said, "fall outside SIGIR's responsibilities."

Joe Newman, communications director for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, said the report demonstrates a need for more oversight in the field. "It is troubling to hear that the State Department didn't fully cooperate with the inspector general's audit of the Iraqi police program because it follows a pattern State has set with previous IG audits and the recommendations made last summer by the Commission on Wartime Contracting," he told Government Executive. "The stakes are very high in Iraq, and we're very concerned that the State Department might not be fully prepared for the enormity of the job ahead."

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