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Senators call for public release of war fraud and waste documents

Two U.S. senators slammed a request by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan to seal its records for 20 years and called on higher officials to publicly release them, according to a statement released Thursday.

Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., co-signed a Nov. 7 letter to Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero calling on him to overrule the commission’s request, which would effectively prevent the public from learning the details of an investigation into a massive misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“Simply stated, we need to live in the light,” the senators wrote. “Sealing records for 20 years is inconsistent with the goals we established for the Commission when Congress acted to create the Commission three years ago.”

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Webb and McCaskill introduced the legislation that created the commission. They said they were only told of the commission’s decision after their recommendation to seal the records was made, according to their letter to Ferriero.

Between $31 billion and $60 billion had been lost to contract waste and fraud during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the commission’s conservative estimate in a final report to Congress in August.

The commission’s report blamed the waste on ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by U.S. agencies, criminal behavior and “blatant corruption.”

The commission also found the potential for billions in further waste because Iraq and Afghanistan do not have the resources to sustain what the United States has already spent on them, according to the report.

“Examples range from the $35 billion that Congress has appropriated since 2002 to train, equip, and support the Afghan National Security Forces, to scores of health-care centers in Iraq that far exceed the Ministry of Health’s ability to maintain them,” the report stated.

The commission disbanded on Sept. 30, as called for in the law that created it, according to the senators’ letter.

The commission’s report is available at www.wartimecontracting.gov/index.php/reports.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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