Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., issued the following statement today in reaction to a front page New York Times story on the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
“While I have strongly defended the invasion of Iraq, I have also always questioned the way the war was being executed. From the beginning, I have called on the Administration to do a better job of planning for and overseeing the Iraqi reconstruction effort. I have a lengthy record of speaking out against and asking for investigations and hearings into the gross neglect of reconstruction contractors and those agencies charged with overseeing them.
“As a result, I have been a strong advocate for the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction since it was first created. This office has done exceptional work, uncovering waste, mismanagement, and fraud on a massive scale, involving billions of squandered taxpayer dollars.
“Most tragically, the waste and mismanagement the SIGIR’s office has uncovered shortchanges our soldiers in the field and impedes the overall war effort.
“For that reason, the SIGIR’s work must continue for as long as American taxpayers are helping to reconstruct Iraq. That is why I object strenuously to a provision inserted into the Defense Department spending bill that would terminate the SIGIR’s office in October 2007. Senator Collins and I wrote to the Secretaries of Defense and State this week calling for greater contractor transparency and we informed them that we would introduce legislation to repeal the expiration date and extend the life of the SIGR.
“The fact is Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen has brought to light many of the abuses that have occurred during the Iraq war. He and his staff have courageously traveled throughout Iraq to inspect projects, large and small. They found that the Coalition Provisional Authority could not account for nearly $9 billion dollars it distributed to Iraq ministries. They determined that the government had lost track of thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons distributed to Iraqi forces. They determined that Halliburton wasted $75 million on a failed pipeline project, after ignoring an engineering consultant’s advice that the project required further study. These are just a few of the examples of the SIGIR’s outstanding work.
“Unfortunately, when it came to planning and implementing the reconstruction of Iraq, this Administration took far too many shortcuts. We continue to suffer the consequences, as do our troops and the Iraqi people.”