Tester demands more scrutiny of costly contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan

Senator requests information and better accountability to protect U.S. taxpayers

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is raising a red flag about costly and unsustainable reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding more scrutiny over taxpayer-funded contracting projects in war zones.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently found that waste, fraud and abuse cost taxpayers one-third of the $206 billion spent on contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Tester today requested more examination, information and “appropriate action” on efforts to protect taxpayer dollars and to better address the sustainability of reconstruction projects.

“It is clear that U.S. officials are not closely scrutinizing projects for sustainability,” Tester wrote.  “Not only are these projects wasteful, but they complicate our military and diplomatic efforts and undermine our ability to build trust and goodwill with locals on the ground.”

Tester pointed to several examples of potentially wasted spending – and how those funds could make a difference in Montana.

For instance, the United States spent $35 billion to train the Afghan Security Forces.  Yet “the VA continues to lack the resources to reach all of our veterans.”

Tester also noted that American taxpayers paid $277 million for a water-treatment plant that remains unused in Iraq while two vital water infrastructure projects in Montana sit unfinished due to a lack of funding.

“For constituents struggling to make ends meet, this is a bitter pill to swallow,” Tester wrote.  “I request that you examine both completed and current projects for risk of sustainment failure and take appropriate action on those projects with no credible prospect of being sustained.  It is long past time that we bring real change to the way our government does business with contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Tester cosponsored legislation to establish the Wartime Contracting Commission in 2007.  At a recent hearing on the Commission’s findings, he pushed for serious changes in how the United States uses wartime contractors like Xe, formerly known as Blackwater.

Tester also recently called for the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, noting that the war’s price tag is approaching $1 trillion.

Tester’s letter to Clinton and Panetta appears online HERE.