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Rep. John F. Tierney Headshot

Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Defense Contracts

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KANDAHAR
AP

Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that U.S. taxpayer money in Afghanistan is landing in the hands of the Taliban. According to The Washington Post, an unreleased military-led investigation "provides seemingly definitive evidence that corruption [in Afghanistan] puts U.S. transportation money into enemy hands."

I first called on the Department of Defense to deal with these critical national security issues last year when, as Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, I released a report entitled "Warlord, Inc. Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan." The report investigated DoD's $2.16 billion Afghan Host Nation Trucking (HNT) contract, which is funded by taxpayer dollars and delivers more than 70 percent of the food, water, ammunition, weapons, and fuel to more than 200 U.S. military forward operating bases and combat outposts throughout Afghanistan.

At that time, our Committee's report found that DoD outsourced almost all the security for this contract, effectively allowing Afghan warlords and insurgents to extort protection payments from the contractors who transport goods and materials to U.S. troops throughout Afghanistan. The eight civilian trucking companies that the U.S. Army hired for the contract serve largely as brokers for the subcontractors that ultimately provide trucks and security to ensure safe passage of supplies throughout the country.

In The Washington Post this week, Karen DeYoung reported on a $7.4 million payment to one of the eight trucking companies involved in the Host Nation Trucking contract work. DeYoung writes that the payment traveled through a complicated web of contractors and subcontractors and ultimately was deposited into an Afghan National Police commander's account, in exchange for guarantees of safe passage for the convoys.

Intelligence officials were able to trace $3.3 million, withdrawn in 27 transactions from the commander's account, that was transferred to insurgents in the form of weapons, explosives and cash.

Critically, The Washington Post article includes information that confirms our investigation findings: the Host Nation Trucking contract is fueling warlordism, extortion, corruption, and even funding the enemy.

In response to my numerous demands for action, we continue to hear from Pentagon officials that they are aggressively increasing oversight over these contracts and taxpayer money. But so far it has been all talk and no action.

At my request, current Subcommittee Chairman Jason Chaffetz has announced that the National Security Oversight Subcommittee will continue investigating these matters by holding a hearing entitled "Defense Department Contracting in Afghanistan: Are We Doing Enough to Combat Corruption?" on August 3, 2011.

I am also encouraged that, more than a year after I called the first congressional hearing on these issues, our Subcommittee's findings have finally piqued the interest of now Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) who last night called for more information from the Defense Department.

We cannot continue to ask the brave men and women of our Armed Forces to put their lives on the line to protect our country, while we jeopardize their safety by failing to ensure that Defense Department funds are not siphoned off to warlords in Afghanistan. As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, I believe the new report from the military-led taskforce, which finally came to the same conclusion we reached more than a year ago, must be reviewed and we must demand from DoD evidence of changes in their contracting procedure. Additionally, while we continue to increase our pressure on the Pentagon to implement real changes, I am encouraged that Congress recently took steps to protect American funds overseas. Earlier this year, as a direct result of my Subcommittee's investigation last June, Congress passed legislation that included language I proposed to provide military commanders with additional powers to investigate and terminate contracts which have been found to be tied to insurgents.

In this time of fiscal austerity, we must scrutinize every aspect of our budget. It is truly unfathomable that, as some in Congress want to put programs like Social Security and Medicare on the table, the Pentagon continues to drag its feet on implementing more stringent oversight of how our taxpayer dollars are being spent, even allowing them to fund the enemy. It is truly distressing that our taxpayer money is funding warlordism and corruption in Afghanistan -- helping to fuel the very insurgents that we hope to remove from power. I have long been a proponent of expediting the redeployment of our tens of thousands of service members out of Afghanistan. As we press to revise our approach to addressing terror worldwide, we should act immediately to prevent tax-payer funding of insurgents targeting our troops still there.