Panel: $60B wasted on wars

Posted: August 31, 2011

WASHINGTON - As much as $60 billion in U.S. tax dollars has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and corruption, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

In its final report to Congress, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said the figure could grow.

Much of the waste and fraud could have been avoided, the commission said. Government agencies should overhaul the way they award and manage contracts in war zones so they don't repeat the mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan, the commission said.

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.

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