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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department wants to accelerate reconstruction efforts in Iraq by streamlining the process of awarding contracts.

In a memo dated June 22, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England wrote that the creation of the new Iraqi government provides, "a short window of opportunity to accelerate stabilization and reconstruction operations."

England has created a task force within the Business Transformation Agency (BTA) to review DOD contracting procedures, the memo says.

"The Task Force will evaluate [Defense Department] business enterprise processes and associated systems in Iraq affecting contracting, logistics, fund distribution and financial management, and will ensure alignment to theater commanders’ goals for reconstruction and economic development," the memo says.

The memo says the task force will look into:

Creating a common system and business process for contract management in Iraq.Establishing a contracting authority to meet the U.S. Central Command’s requirements.Implementing ways to ensure Commander’s Emergency Response Funds are spent quickly.Possibly changing federal acquisition laws and regulations for future operations.Coming up with ways to deal with laws and regulations that affect the DOD’s contracting ability.The task force’s recommendations will go to England for final approval, the memo says.

Contracts for reconstruction in Iraq have run into problems in the past. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently canceled several contracts for prisons and electrical plants due to delays.

The contracts with Parsons Global Services Inc. totaled several hundred million dollars and included the contract for a $99.1 million prison that was more than two years behind schedule, millions over budget and abandoned, authorities said.

Paul Brinkley, who heads the Business Transformation Agency task force, said "unequivocally" that the task force was not prompted by the cancellation of the Parsons contracts.

"This is not addressing any specific issue with any particular contract, but it’s to ensure that both now and in the future for contingency operations, we’re providing our work force with a set of systems and processes that best align to the mission at hand," said Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation.

The task force will look at ways to update the Defense Department’s peacetime business practices for wartime needs, Brinkley said in a phone interview on Friday.

Over the past several months, officials have been looking at ways to improve "war-fighter support," he said.

"That has culminated in a set of engagements directly in theater with unit-level commands, with people on the ground in theater, and getting a very direct view of what are the areas where our business systems and our business processes are not supporting success within the war-fighting area," Brinkley said.

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