Windfalls of War


Yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity released their new report Windfalls of War II, exposing how contractors over the past three years made a mint off the spoils of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. An earlier 2003 report, Windfalls of War (heavily researched by our Sunlight colleague, Larry Makinson) looked at Uncle Sam’s spending on private contractors from 2001 through much of 2003.

In this new report, the Center says that the federal contract system for the two war zones is "marred by missing contracts, unidentified companies, a lack of competitive bidding and the absence of minority-owned companies as primary contractors." By the end of 2006, CPI reports, U.S. contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan have grown to $25 billion, while oversight has seriously deteriorated.

Here’s just one of the many horror stories they report: The feds awarded one company alone, KBR, Inc., over $16 billion in contracts for projects in Iraq and Afghanistan over 2004 through 2006, almost nine times the amount awarded to the No. 2 contractor DynCorp International.

CPI sifted through Iraq and Afghanistan contract transactions by accessing the U.S. General Service Administration‘s Federal Procurement Data System. Even though CPI says that the GSA has made the search process more transparent than when they were researching the 2003 report, much more openness and transparency is warranted. The updated report does not include all Iraq construction contracts, and detailed transaction information is not made available to the public, CPI reports. Also, nearly $20.5 billion went to undisclosed foreign contractors. That’s a lot of cash considering we have no idea who it went to and for what purposes.

Another Sunlight friend (and in this case a grantee), OMB Watch, built, after years of frustration over not being able to obtain information about federal contracts and grants. The site is a searchable database of $14 trillion in federal government spending, and is meant to be a more open and accessible tool for citizens to find out how the feds spend their tax dollars. OMB Watch and the Sunlight believe the public has a right to know how its elected government spends taxpayer dollars. Of course, many in government do not want citizens to have this information. Once the public has access to this data we can hold elected officials accountable for the priorities they set.

Corruption, cronyism and incompetence in defense contracts have been widely exposed over the past few months. And there has been congressional action intended to provide more oversight.