On June 12, I wrote a Huffington Post blog called the "Iraq 'Splurge' and the Never Ending Military Costs," about how the cost of the surge in Iraq was going to rocket upwards because the costs of the military contractors were out of control. To my horror, my predictions were right.
According to a story in yesterday's Washington Post, the Bush administration is planning to ask the Congress for another $50 billion on top of the $147 billion still pending in Congress in supplemental money for the war. They feel confident that they will get it. We are going from a mind-numbing $2 billion a week to a mind-blowing $3 billion a week for the war. And the troops are still not getting what they need while the military contractors in this new war service industry are reaping the benefits of this money.
During the research of my new book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, I was able to follow the experiences of troops and contractor employees and show that the private military contractors were stealing and wasting billions of dollars while not supplying the troops what they needed to fight. Congress has just started to look into what they can do to investigate and get control of the contractor costs. Many reports from government agencies have shown lack of oversight and out of control costs. Senators McCaskill and Webb have introduced legislation to resurrect another Truman Commission to investigate the contractors before the war is over. But something more has to be done now, before committing almost $200 billion with little oversight.
Right now everyone is concentrating on how to exit or wind down the war. That debate needs to go on. In the meantime, even the most optimistic people think that it will take us at least a year to get out of Iraq. At $3 billion a week, that is real money. The Congress needs to scrub these supplemental requests and force the DOD to tighten up the cost controls and oversight on the contractors who are tasked with supporting all these troops. This war is rife with stories of stolen money, unsubstantiated costs being paid by a compliant Army and contractors charging labor costs of 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of the work being done.
Congress has the ability to stop this through the appropriations process. They can put restrictions on the money and force the DOD to look at the contractor costs in a sane manner. The military will counter that they need unlimited funds to have "the best for our boys." Their track record on this war will show that they have not done the best for the soldiers but, instead, have been influenced, threatened and bullied to do the best for contractors. Corruption, cronyism, and waste only hurt the soldiers and these contractors have taken advantage of this war in a way that has never been seen before. Their role, which is larger in this war than any before, was supposed to help the soldier and cost the taxpayer less.
At $3 billion a week with troops still complaining that they can't get what they need, this sick experiment by the military must finally be brought under control. Let the Congress know, whatever your politics are on the war, that they have to do something drastic before giving over another $200 billion over to this underreported scandal.
If you want to know more, go to my website www.followthemoneyproject.org.