WASHINGTON -The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine – heralded the recommendations and lessons learned Wednesday from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Commission – created by legislation sponsored by Senators Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and James Webb, D-Va. – issued its final report last month. The report found that at least $31 billion – and perhaps as much as $60 billion – have been squandered in waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years.

“One of the frustrations in reading the Commission’s report is that the underlying problems it identifies are not a surprise – we have known about them for years,” Lieberman said. “Still, under our present budget pressures we just can’t afford the sloppy spending identified by the Commission.

“Much of the waste identified by the Commission stems from a lack of competition, which should be the cornerstone of government contracting because competition among vendors gets us the best prices.

“Congress has undertaken a number of important reforms to address these problems and yet we still continue to see billions of dollars wasted. Obviously our efforts have fallen short.  I hope we can institutionalize reform so that we don’t keep making the same mistakes in the future.”

Collins said: “It is especially troubling that our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been plagued by a high level of waste, fraud, and abuse.  Some of the examples are almost too astonishing to believe.  For example, a July 2011 report found that a DOD contractor was charging $900 for a control switch that was worth a mere $7.

“As I have said before, how well we execute wartime contracting helps to determine how well we build the peace.”

In 2008, Congress enacted a Collins-Lieberman provision that mandated the creation of a Contingency Contracting Corps – a cadre of trained acquisition professionals who could deploy in contingency operations or disaster response – which has never been fully implemented.  One of the Commission’s key recommendations is creation of such a corps.

Collins and Lieberman also sponsored a number of contract reform provisions signed into law in 2007, including a limit on the length of non-competitive contracts; rules requiring more competition; new regulations on the use of cost-reimbursement contracts; and a restriction on the award of large task and delivery order contracts to a single source.

The Government Accountability Office has produced many reports on contracting associated with the two wars. And the problems with wartime contracting were a major impetus for Lieberman’s decision to create a special subcommittee to oversee federal contracting, which is chaired by McCaskill.

Lieberman said the Committee would continue to monitor reconstruction contracting.

Witnesses at the hearing were: McCaskill and Webb;  Christopher Shays, Co-Chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting; Commissioners Clark Kent Ervin,  Robert J. Henke, Katherine Schinasi, Charles Tiefer, and Dov S. Zakheim; Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary for Management at the Department of State; and Richard Ginman, Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy at the Department of Defense.