Wartime commission plans for a first hand view

Tuesday - 6/22/2010, 11:08am EDT

Michael Thibault, co-chair, Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

When it comes to security in war zones, what is considered "inherently governmental?" What can be contracted to private businesses? And is it pointless to even ask?

The federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has been looking at the role, and oversight, of more than 40,000 private security contractors working in warzones.

Michael Thibault, commission co-chair, told Federal News Radio that after the latest round of two days of hearings, two things are clear: First, there's "no bright, shiny line" between what should be considered tasks closely associated and those critical to government. Secondly, while he said debate is critical, "right now it's a world of private security contractors."

"In the present day," Thibault told the Federal Drive, "it's clear it's an impossibility to back out the private security contractors and back in federal or government employees of any stripe"

He said Congress, for the most part, seems to understand the nuances of what the commission is finding and the understanding is growing.

Especially staff for some of the significant leaders on the Hill, they are up to speed. And the issues that we've brought out here aren't clear. And therefore I think everyone is trying find a position that seems to make the most sense, and I think that's where this discussion is so significant.

The next big focus of the commission will be looking at reconstruction contracts. Thibault said there are "huge, several hundred million dollar projects,... all over Afghanistan." The commission will examine the contracting process and whether they are being properly managed.

The only way that you really get the answer, and that's the interesting part, is you have to go put eyes and feet on the ground where they're doing the work. And that's pretty interesting because the commission staff, in this case, are going to be compelled to go look at some project that maybe some other folks don't want to look at for a variety of reasons. That's one area that in the next couple, three, months the commission's going to be spending a lot of time.