As President Obama considers reducing U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan beginning in July, a new report warns for the potential of wasting billions of dollars in contract projects in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Sustainability: Hidden Costs Risk New Waste report says many of the infrastructure-based programs and projects carried out under federal contracts in the war zones "lack plans for staffing, technical support and funding for the long term" in such projects as health clinics and road building.
“The Commission on Wartime Contracting sees no indication that the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development are making adequate plans to ensure that host nations will be able to operate and maintain U.S.-funded projects on their own,” the report states.
Because of this, billions could be wasted if projects are turned "over to a host government that can’t supply trained people to run it, pay for supplies, or perform essential maintenance," wrote commission co-chairman Michael Thibault.
One example is the $300 million Tarakhil Power Plant, also known as the Kabul Power Plant. While the plant is completed, it is hardly used and the cost to operate and maintain it is too great for the Afghan government to sustain from its own resources.
The report requests the Pentagon, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development examine projects for risk of failure, make a detailed assessment of the host nations’ ability to complete the projects, cancel or redesign projects if necessary, and report results to Congress by the end of 2011 and annually after that.
"As the military draws down, and the (State) department’s plans are implemented to increase the civilian presence in Iraq, the department is relying on the use of contractors for certain functions which are not inherently governmental," said Patrick F. Kennedy, under secretary for management at the Department of State, in a statement. "We use contractors in contingency operations when it makes sense and is cost-efficient, as opposed to building up permanent, U.S. direct-hire staff.”