Pentagon Waste In Iraq May Total Billions

LA Times – Pentagon Waste In Iraq May Total Billions, Investigators Say

The Pentagon may have wasted billions of dollars in Iraq because of a lack of planning and poor oversight, top congressional and Defense Department investigators said Tuesday.

David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, told a congressional panel that Defense Department planners had failed to adequately determine the needs of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and to effectively oversee the billions of dollars’ worth of contracts issued.

Though Pentagon officials blame any mistakes on the pressure of the war’s early days, the investigators said they had found ongoing waste in the contracting process a year after the invasion was launched in March 2003. In remarks to reporters, Walker speculated that the total losses from waste could amount to “billions.”

“There are serious problems, they still exist and they are exacerbated in a wartime climate,” Walker told members of the House Government Reform Committee, which is charged with preventing waste, fraud and abuse in the government.

Tuesday’s testimony by the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Pentagon’s auditor, presented the most complete picture to date of the U.S. military’s decision to pay private contractors billions of dollars to help wage the war and rebuild Iraq.

Though much of the contracting was done well, the agencies said, military contract managers and the companies they oversaw were frequently overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tasks in Iraq.

The agencies singled out a contract awarded to Halliburton Co. — a Houston-based oil services giant that supplies food, housing and other logistics services to the military — as a particularly egregious example of both poor oversight by the government and overcharging by the company.

Not good, if not altogether unsurprising given the magnitude of the budget and scope of projects involved. I’d be interested in seeing comparative data on multinational conglomerates. I suspect that we’d see a lot of waste there, too, even though they’re governed by a profit motive.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mike says:

    This should not surprise anyone. Tell a bunch of guys who train for war to rebuild a nation and you are going to have some waste. I think they are doing the best they can under very trying circumstances.

  2. Hal says:

    Wow! So it’s “just par for the course” when the US does it. It’s “a scandal of unbelievable magnitude” when the UN does it.


  3. James Joyner says:

    The evidence clearly points to large scale graft and corruption on the part of senior UN officials in the Oil for Food scandal. No such evidence has been proffered in this case. It’s pretty clearly sloppy oversight–of a variety that has gone on for decades. I don’t like it and would like to see it cleaned up; I’d also like to have something to compare it to.

  4. How about:

    “U.S. Government Waste in the U.S. May Total Billions”