The Associated Press obtained a copy of the commission's 240-page report in advance of its scheduled public release today.
Created by Congress in 2008, the eight-member commission interviewed hundreds of military and civilian officials and traveled several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel's final report is the most comprehensive examination so far of the U.S. dependence on contractors in combat areas.
The commission said calculating the exact amount lost through waste and fraud is difficult because there is no commonly accepted methodology for doing so. But using information it has gathered over the past three years, the commission said at least $31 billion has been lost and the total could be as high as $60 billion. The commission called the estimate "conservative."
Overall, the commission said spending on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to exceed $206 billion by the end of the 2011 budget year. Based on its investigation, the commission said contracting waste in Afghanistan ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent of the $206 billion total. Fraud during the same period ran between 5 percent and 9 percent of the total, the report said.
Styled after the Truman Committee, which examined World War II spending six decades ago, the commission was vested with broad authority. But the law creating the commission also dictated that it would cease operating at the end of September 2011, even as the U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to be heavily supported by contractors.