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Chair of oversight subcommittee sounds alarm about serious and ongoing problems

April 16, 2010

 WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight's Chairman Claire McCaskill today questioned top State and Defense Department officials about the continuing failure of government contractors responsible for training the Afghan police force, a task key to the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

U.S. success in Afghanistan is dependent on our country's ability to fight insurgents and maintain basic rule of law, and the Afghan police force is vital in achieving this objective. Over the past eight years, the United States government has spent over six billion dollars on police training contracts, yet numerous government watchdog reports have indicated serious problems with contractors' work and agencies' failure to adequately manage and oversee the contract.

"Training the police in Afghanistan is part of our military mission. It is as important as anything else we are doing in that nation right now," McCaskill said. "So what has happened in that regard? It is an unbelievably incompetent story of contracting. For eight years we have been supposedly training the police in Afghanistan. And here's what we've done. We've flushed six billion dollars. Six billion dollars."

Watch video of McCaskill's opening statement

Reports have repeatedly cited problems such as insufficient mentors, equipment shortages, inadequate pay, corruption, and deteriorating security conditions, with government officials and contractors failing to adequately address these issues. When David Johnson, the Assistant Secretary at the Department of State, tried to explain away problems by citing how many police officers have been through the training program, McCaskill responded by pointing out that there still is no effective police force.

"You can say all you want about how many [people] have been trained, but I think if we're honest about how many are currently operative at an effectiveness level in the country of Afghanistan, Americans have not gotten a good deal on their investment," McCaskill said.

The State Department and Department of Defense currently share control of the police training contract. McCaskill raised concerns that having the contract under control of more than one agency created a lack of clear authority and oversight, undermining the success of the mission.

"The ultimate recipe for disaster is not having one single agency with clear line of authority in charge, able to make sure the mission is accomplished with efficiency, effectiveness and that money is not walking away. None of that happened for eight years," McCaskill said.

In December, a ruling by the GAO spurred the move of the contract to sole control by the Department of Defense. However, five months later, the Department of Defense still does not have a firm plan in place for moving forward with the contract. When McCaskill asked what the plan was for getting contractors committed and in place to train police officers in Afghanistan under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Department of Defense, David Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, could only say that they did not have a final answer.

"That's unacceptable," McCaskill responded. "The moment the complaint was filed all hands on deck should have been looking at this at the Pentagon to say, what's Plan B? If this objection is upheld, what is Plan B?"

After being pressed by McCaskill, Sedney explained that the government has decided to hold a full and open competition to award a new contract.

Watch video of McCaskill questioning witnesses



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