Evaluating and Improving the Contract System

Testimony Before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan

Pratap Chatterjee testifies about the contracting process before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SOURCE: Center for American Progress

CAP Visiting Fellow Pratap Chatterjee testifies before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the testimony. (CAP Action).

Chairmen Thibault and Shays, distinguished members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you. My name is Pratap Chatterjee and I am a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress where I focus on federal procurement reform. I work on the Doing What Works project where we believe an efficient allocation of scarce resources in government will achieve greater results for all. My work focuses on improving transparency and auditing as a basis for smarter decision making to make sure waste, fraud, and abuse do not take place.

I believe the contracting process—whether in the war zone or here in the United States—will benefit if we have a much more robust data system to evaluate the contractors we plan to hire and to track their work. We need accurate data on everything from the workers we use to the goods and services we purchase. We need good databases that allow us to evaluate one contractor over the other, and qualified and experienced contracting officers to pick the best bidder. The absence of data—or worse yet, the wrong data—can cost not just money but lives. We also need to do a much better job of tracking the goods we buy and the people we hire. We need to evaluate their performance in the field and audit the money we give them to make sure we are getting the best value for taxpayer dollars.

First, I’ll give you a sense of my background. I have traveled to the Middle East and Central Asia more than a dozen times since September 11, 2001, spending more than 16 months on the ground in the region. I have visited Afghanistan and Iraq four times each, starting in January 2002. I traveled to both those countries as a journalist and spent almost all my time in the so-called red zones accompanied generally only by a fixer or translator. In addition, I have also embedded with the U.S. military and visited bases in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in Kosovo and Kuwait to research military logistics and police training contracts with KBR and DynCorp, respectively. I have written two books on this subject—Halliburton’s Army and Iraq, Inc.—as well as numerous articles and reports such as “Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq,” which was produced in collaboration with Amnesty International. In my role as managing editor of CorpWatch, a website tracking corporate malfeasance, I also commissioned and edited a number of other investigative reports such as “Afghanistan, Inc.” on reconstruction in that country. I would be happy to make copies of any of these materials available to commissioners should you be interested.

In my remarks I will touch on the lack of inventory tracking of weapons and ammunition that were supplied by contractors, and the theft and misuse of the weapons by security forces. I will describe the weapons and security startups like AEY and USPI that defrauded us. And I will tell you about the unqualified translators we hired through L-3/Titan, the inexperienced police officers through DynCorp, and the payments that Third Country Nationals have to make to labor brokers to get jobs on bases.

CAP Visiting Fellow Pratap Chatterjee testifies before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the testimony. (CAP Action).

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