Protecting Taxpayer Dollars from Contracting Waste is McCaskill Focus at Armed Services Hearing

Senator to CENTCOM Commander: ‘I need you to reassure me that we have not taken our eye off the importance of contracting oversight’

WASHINGTON – Following a Defense Department watchdog report out of Kuwait detailing contracting abuses and a lack of oversight, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill—whose landmark legislation overhauling wartime contracting oversight has reformed how the military handles contracting and procurement—is aiming to keep the military’s focus on protecting taxpayer dollars.

McCaskill today used an Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss a troubling report detailing waste and abuse of contracts in Kuwait that led to environmental and health hazards for U.S. troops stationed there.

Detailing an encounter with a U.S. General in Iraq during her first term in the Senate, who told her “Senator, I wanted three kinds of ice cream in the mess yesterday, and I don’t care how much it costs” McCaskill said of the progress on wasteful contracting since: “It underscored for me that contracting oversight was not a core capability many times within commands within contingencies. If it were, we wouldn’t have this long trail of mistakes made going all the way back to Kosovo on contracting. So I was upset yesterday when I saw the [Defense Department watchdog] report coming out of Kuwait, where they said that ineffective monitoring of contractor performance for the Kuwait base operations, particularly concerning that the contracting officer representatives, which we’ve worked very hard [to improve]… I mean at the point in time when I was over there, the worst guy in the unit got handed the clipboard, had no idea what he was supposed to do in terms of contracting oversight, and didn’t do much.”

McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, continued: “We’ve done a lot of work on this: training and making sure people understand, and standing up the contracting command. So the fact that there is no consistent surveillance of these contracts in Kuwait, no assurance that the contract requirements have been met, and the entire $13 million dollar performance bonus was paid even though it’s not clear it was earned, and maybe most worrisome, this environment and health hazard that has been allowed to languish…impacting the health and safety of the men and women that are stationed there. So I need you to reassure me that we have not taken our eye off the importance of contracting oversight.”

General Joseph Votel, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, responded: “I absolutely agree with you, and I recognize my responsibility as the CENTCOM commander and a senior leader in the Department of Defense to ensure the expenditure of our national treasure and our resources is done in an effective and efficient manner. And I look forward to an opportunity to talk with you specifically about this situation in Kuwait.”

McCaskill waged a successful six-year battle to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ultimately passed into law the most expansive reforms to wartime contracting practices since World War II. She led a successful effort to end hundreds of millions in taxpayer spending on unsustainable overseas projects, bring those resources home, and increase accountability for the remaining U.S.-Afghan projects.

McCaskill recently used a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to urge the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan to continue guarding taxpayer dollars from waste and abuse. In last year’s annual defense bill, McCaskill successfully included a permanent prohibition on U.S. taxpayer dollars being spent on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan that cannot be accessed by oversight personnel.

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/defense to learn more about McCaskill’s fight to protect our national security.

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