- A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill's Contract Oversight
subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important
statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration
has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it.
Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense's
total workforce, "the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel
in US history." That's not in one war zone-that's the Pentagon in
- In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush
administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released
by McCaskill's staff, "From June 2009 to September 2009, there was
a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. Â During
the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working
for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately
5,000 to more than 10,000."
- At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors
in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional
Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan,
there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is
another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department
contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors.
- That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan
is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors).
And remember, that's right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a
conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000
US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.
- The US has spent more than $23 billion on contracts in
Afghanistan since 2002. By next year, the number of contractors will have
doubled since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion in Afghanistan-related
- Despite the massive number of contracts and contractors
in Afghanistan, oversight is utterly lacking. "The increase in Afghanistan
contracts has not seen a corresponding increase in contract management
and oversight," according to McCaskill's briefing paper. "In
May 2009, DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] Director Charlie Williams
told the Commission on Wartime Contracting that as many as 362 positions
for Contracting Officerâ¤s Representatives (CORs) in Afghanistan
were currently vacant."
- A former USAID official, Michael Walsh, the former director
of USAID's Office of Acquisition and Assistance and Chief Acquisition Officer,
told the Commission that many USAID staff are â¤administering
huge awards with limited knowledge of or experience with the rules and
regulations. According to one USAID official, the agency is sending
too much money, too fast with too few people looking over how it is spent.
As a result, the agency does not â¤know â¤S
where the money is going.
- The Obama administration is continuing the Bush-era policy
of hiring contractors to oversee contractors. According to the McCaskill
- In Afghanistan, USAID is relying on contractors to provide
oversight of its large reconstruction and development projects. Â According
to information provided to the Subcommittee, International Relief and Development
(IRD) was awarded a five-year contract in 2006 to oversee the $1.4 billion
infrastructure contract awarded to a joint venture of the Louis Berger
Group and Black and Veatch Special Projects. USAID has also awarded a contract
Checci and Company to provide support for contracts in Afghanistan.
- The private security industry and the US government have
pointed to the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker(SPOT)
as evidence of greater government oversight of contractor activities. But
McCaskill's subcommittee found that system utterly lacking, stating: "The
Subcommittee obtained current SPOT data showing that there are currently
1,123 State Department contractors and no USAID contractors working in
- Remember, there are officially 14,000 USAID contractors
and the official monitoring and tracking system found none of these people
and less than half of the State Department contractors.
- As for waste and abuse, the subcommittee says that the
Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $950 million in questioned
and unsupported costs submitted by Defense Department contracts for work
in Afghanistan. That's 16% of the total contract dollars reviewed.