$12 Million per Day Lost on Wartime Contracting

Mary Kaszynski
Afghanistan Study Group

To a war-weary American public, the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier is another sign that the Afghanistan War needs to end.  Whether policymakers agree is another story. The latest reports say that President Obama, some members of Congress, and U.S. allies are determined to stick to the current drawdown plan.  That plan, developed at the 2010 Lisbon conference, is for Afghan forces to take on the primary combat role by 2014.

Even as the number of U.S. troops decreases, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is still considerable and thus the costs of sustaining that presence.

As U.S. troops come home the remaining war duties will shift to contractors. As of January 2012, there are over 25,000 U.S. defense contractors in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures. Exactly how much these contractors cost U.S. taxpayers is unknown, but we do know that DOD contractors’ salaries are second to none: on average, Pentagon contractors make $10,000 per year more than DOD civilians, and $36,000 more than the average non-federal employee.

When it comes to wartime contracting, the numbers are even more damning. The Commission on Wartime Contracting found that of the $206 billion the U.S. spent on contracts since 2002. As much as $60 billion of that total was lost to waste and fraud. That averages out to about $12 million per week over the last ten years.

Some members of Congress are trying to implement increased oversight of wartime contracting, as the Commission recommends. But it’s an uphill battle against congressional inertia and Pentagon incompetence (this is, after all, the agency that still cannot pass a financial audit).

Despite dwindling public support, the war in Afghanistan continues. Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are wasted at a time when Congress is considering cuts to other vital programs.  Another $12,000,000 per week for Afghanistan contracting is fiscally irresponsible.  Let’s keep that money at home.

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