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Tierney eyes oversight of war-related contracts

PEABODY – With wartime spending at a record high, U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney this week introduced legislation that would establish a special commission to oversee contracts related to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.The commission would be modeled after the Truman Committee that in the 1940s was formed to study and, if necessary, investigate war contracts.The move comes at a particularly sensitive time as President George W. Bush, through the Pentagon, seeks nearly $190 billion for the two wars in fiscal year 2008. If approved by Congress, it would be the largest annual expenditure since the conflicts began.The Pentagon last Wednesday added $42.3 billion to its previous $147 billion request and Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the extra money will support the additional troops deployed to Iraq this year.”I know that Iraq and other difficult choices America faces in this war on terror will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the President, and in the wider public debate,” Gates said.Tierney, a Salem Democrat and chairman of a key national security subcommittee, joined U.S. Rep. Thomas H. Allen, a Maine Democrat, in introducing the oversight legislation to establish an independent Commission on Wartime Contracting.Sens. Jim Webb of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, both Democrats, introduced a companion measure in the Senate, essentially an amendment to the Senate’s Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.”For years I fought to establish a special committee – modeled after the Truman Committee of the 1940’s – to study and investigate war contracts because GOP-led Congress chose not to hold hearings examining such issues,” said Tierney, adding that the efforts of various Congressional committees continue to expose waste, mismanagement and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”Establishing this commission will help ensure that taxpayer money is being well-spent and contractors are held accountable.”In recent months, investigations by oversight committees in both the House and Senate have revealed evidence of widespread fraud, abuse, mismanagement and waste of American taxpayers’ funds by Haliburton, Blackwater and other private contractors in Iraq, Tierney said.Allen, the Maine congressman, added, “Harry Truman’s tireless scrutiny of defense contractors during World War II prevented the squandering of billions of dollars and uncovered faulty equipment that saved thousands of lives of our Armed Forces. Our legislation will restore similar accountability over the Bush Administration’s Iraq operations that previous Congresses failed to assert.”Specifically, the bill would establish an independent and bipartisan eight-member Commission on Wartime Contracting to study and investigate the federal agency contracting for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan; the federal agency contracting for the logistical support of coalition forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom; and federal agency contracting for the performance of security and intelligence functions in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.The bill also expands the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s area of responsibility beyond Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Funds.

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