Pentagon, WH assure progress in wartime contracting

Thursday - 9/1/2011, 2:39pm EDT

By Jared Serbu
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Within hours of the release of a report Wednesday detailing tens of billions of dollars in contracting waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the Pentagon and the White House issued statements welcoming the findings, and offering assurances that progress is being made.

"We commend the Commission for shining a spotlight on waste in contracting, on the need to strengthen the contracting function at agencies, on the value of increasing competition in contracting, and on the importance of holding contractors accountable for their performance," wrote Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in a blog post Wednesday.

The bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, formed by Congress in 2008, determined in its final report Wednesday that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning, inadequate competition and corruption.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department already had begun to improve its contracting processes through increased competition between vendors and greater oversight of contractors, including prosecutions of contractors who engage in fraud.

"We have already implemented a number of steps to improve contingency contracting based on the department's own analysis, as well as recommendations from the independent reviews of the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general and the commission's previous publications and interim reports," Lapan said in a release issued by the Pentagon's news service Wednesday.

Lapan said DoD has been working since 2009 to rebuild its acquisition workforce and has added 9,000 contracting professionals to agencies such as the Defense Contract Audit Agency and Defense Contract Management Agency. Also, Ashton Carter, DoD's undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, logistics and technology, recently ordered each of the military services to designate their own senior official in charge of service contracting. The officials will develop and disseminate best practices for service contracting, which is typically not handled by acquisition professionals.

"Our people who contract for services are mostly amateurs, because they're mostly doing something else as their principal responsibility and services contracting is an ancillary duty," Carter told the commission in testimony earlier this year. "They're trying to get something else done, and the services are what help them get their principal job done. And I don't want to turn them into services procurement experts."

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