10/01/2014
William Hartung
Director, Arms and Security Project, Center for International Policy

Mideast Iraq

If there’s one thing we should have learned over the past 13 years of war, it’s that war is good business for those in the business of war. Unfortunately, while profits for the Pentagon’s contractors increase, so does the cost to taxpayers in billions in waste, fraud, and abuse. As America embarks on yet another war in the Middle East, Congress needs to act now to stop this unjustified bonanza for the Pentagon’s contractors.

The most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan offer an ominous example about what can happen when the rush to war is met with sharp spending increases coupled with little to no oversight or fiscal restraint. The Commission on Wartime Contracting — a bipartisan congressional body — estimates that there was $30 to $60 billion in waste, fraud and abuse associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — a total of $12 million per day. Even worse, at least $6 billion is completely missing, never accounted for, gone forever. That is a stunning amount of taxpayer dollars — yours and mine — to simply disappear into the wind.

Among the most egregious examples of corporate and governmental malfeasance during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a multibillion-dollar no-bid contract for Halliburton’s Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) division to rebuild and operate Iraqi oil fields. Halliburton was found guilty of price gouging on everything from the supply of oil for military vehicles to feeding the troops; shoddy workmanship that resulted in scores of unfinished buildings and inadequate supplies of electricity; and life-threatening situations like defective showers that electrocuted a soldier. A long list of other examples is available in the reports of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, whose investigations helped spur the convictions of 82 companies and individuals of illegal activities connected to contracting in Iraq.

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