- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007


The leaders of a Senate panel said yesterday that the Defense and State departments must work more closely together to avoid repeating multimillion dollar mistakes in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, said they were considering legislation to create a commission to help fix problems after investigators found confusion and disarray in the four-year-old reconstruction effort.

“Where we’ve seen failure is when the U.S. government failed to plan projects carefully and then failed to keep a close watch over contractors, and now we’ve seen billions of dollars wasted — a cost measured not just in dollars but in the undermining of the overall U.S. mission in these war-torn countries,” said Mr. Lieberman, Connecticut independent.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, released his latest report on the lessons learned in a war and reconstruction effort that has cost taxpayers nearly $400 billion. It detailed a series of mistakes, delays and missed opportunities.

Characterizing the U.S. effort as chaotic and poorly managed, Mr. Bowen found numerous problems — from a lack of strategy and fuzzy lines of authority to confusion and disarray between Defense and State.

David Satterfield, senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said his department has been working diligently to improve cooperation between the departments and increased coordination with new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“I believe it’s wrong to assume … that there are not individual, anecdotal personality issues,” he said. “But the jointness is greater than that.”

Mr. Bowen’s office released the 157-page audit yesterday. Among the findings:

• A Defense Department agency charged with running the reconstruction effort never developed a fully coordinated plan upon members’ arrival in 2003, leading to confusion and duplication of effort. “We were bumping into one another as we tried to solve the same problem,” a former agency official is quoted as saying.

• Money flowed to reconstruction projects before procedures, training and staffing were fully in place, resulting in a “lack of clearly defined authorities” and little accountability in terms of how dollars were being spent.

• Only three contracting officers were initially sent to Baghdad to oversee spending of reconstruction dollars. As a result, some contract files were in disarray or missing while others were stored on personal e-mail accounts and individual hard drives.

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