Appropriations Committee Hearing, Waste, Fraud And Abuse In Iraq Reconstruction

Chairman Byrd is unable to be here today but we will include his opening statement in the record. He has been a strong voice for accountability of our assistance programs in Iraq. Senator Byrd is anxious to get back to work and we expect to see him very soon.

Over the past several years this Committee has heard testimony on the President’s budget requests for billions of dollars for Iraq reconstruction.

The Appropriations Committee is the only regulator on the spigot this Administration opened in 2003 to flood Iraq with billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars. We intend to have a strong hand on that spigot this year as we consider the request for an additional $108 billion in supplemental emergency funds.

Investigations of the Special Inspector General for Iraq, the Government Accountability Office, the media and others, have revealed waste and fraud on a scale unprecedented in our foreign assistance programs. 

The Administration's attitude toward budgeting, spending and accounting for U.S. tax dollars in Iraq can be summed up in two words: anything goes. Just put it on the American taxpayers’ credit card. Meanwhile, the American people’s priorities here at home have been relegated farther and farther back in the line.

Beginning last year, the new Congress has begun oversight to try to correct these mistakes and to learn lessons so we can avoid them in the future. Today’s hearing continues that process.

For an Administration that came into office insisting that it could be trusted to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and then ignored any advice they disagreed with, including from people with decades of experience, the record is shameful. Even today, the Administration continues to oppose remedies like the War Profiteering Prevention Act.

It is not that nothing good has been accomplished. There have been successful projects. But if one compares the results to the exorbitant amount spent, it is an embarrassment. As we struggle to find the money to repair decaying bridges, roads and schools in the United States, this Administration wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, and possibly billions of dollars, in Iraq.

At first, the Administration told the American people and the Congress that Iraqi oil would pay to rebuild the country. That assertion, by chief architects of the war, turned out to be either naïve or dishonest.

Instead, since 2003 they have spent $45 billion for Iraqi relief and reconstruction, which of course does not include the $500 billion spent on the military operations. In fact, the long term cost of this war is already expected to exceed $3 trillion, if you count the costs of rebuilding the military and caring for the wounded.

The Administration spent huge amounts on no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton and their subsidiaries that had close connections with the White House, charged exorbitant fees, and often did shoddy work.

Throughout that period, I and others urged the Administration to focus on smaller projects and give more responsibility and involvement to the Iraqi people. But stubbornness, arrogance and incompetence won out, and only recently has the approach begun to change. 

I want to commend Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Ambassador Charles Ries, and their staffs, for the long overdue changes they are making. 

As chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee I have seen how foreign aid can be effective. It can help transform people’s lives for the better. It can help transform whole countries. And it serves our national interests in many, many ways. But in Iraq, the experts were ignored by political ideologues who wanted a quick fix. 

At a time when hard-working Americans are losing their homes, losing their jobs, spending their savings on the soaring costs of health care, trying to make ends meet, they have a right to know how this Administration has squandered so much of their hard earned money in Iraq.

And they have a right to ask, today, with the price of oil at $108 a barrel and the Administration asking for billions of dollars more for Iraq reconstruction, why the American people should continue to foot the bill for what the Iraqis can afford themselves.

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David Carle: 202-224-3693

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