Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Thursday endorsed the broad parameters of the primary recommendation of a new report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) that calls for better coordination among U.S. agencies in post conflict reconstruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report, “Iraq Reconstruction: Lessons Learned in Program and Project Management,” was released by the SIGIR, Stuart W. Bowen, at a hearing before the Committee. It described how disjointed leadership, lack of pre-planning, and unanticipated security concerns plagued reconstruction efforts.
Senator Collins said, “The Special Inspector General has uncovered many disturbing cases of egregious mismanagement, and in some cases, outright fraud, in Iraq reconstruction contracts and projects. His work suggests that Congress should revamp the way the federal government conducts significant relief and reconstruction efforts, whether it is in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the Gulf Coast of the United States. I believe the Senate also needs to pass comprehensive legislation to reform how the government procures goods and services. Senator Joe Lieberman and I have introduced legislation that would mandate more competition and greater transparency in the acquisition process. These reforms would help ensure that the American taxpayers receive the best value and would curb many of the abuses the Special IG’s investigations have revealed.”
“If we want Iraq and Afghanistan to become prosperous societies that will be our allies in the war on terror, rather than havens for those who would plot to attack us, we must help them build the infrastructure upon which prosperity depends – schools, roads, power projects, water and sewer, health care and communications systems – and we must help them strengthen democratic foundations that are necessary for long-term prosperity,” Lieberman said. “I agree with the SIGIR that the State and Defense Departments and USAID must work together much more effectively on post-conflict reconstruction and I will examine possible legislative fixes to achieve that goal.”
Among the problems the SIGIR identified were constantly shifting priorities, inadequate staffing, confusion over responsibilities, poor planning, high personnel turnover, inadequate record keeping and financial management, and ad hoc decision making. The report recommended that Congress reassess the roles and responsibilities of the rebuilding effort to promote better coordination among the Department of Defense, USAID, and the Department of State. To date, the United States has obligated over $21 billion under the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund and has appropriated another $17 billion for related relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq. The United States has spent $4.3 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan.
Along with Bowen, the Committee heard testimony from David M. Satterfield, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq; Major General Ronald L. Johnson, Deputy Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Mark S. Ward, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Asia and the Near East for the U.S. Agency for International Development.