Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del) participated in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, "Transforming Wartime Contracting: Recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Contracting." His statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

"I want to thank the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan for its hard work in tracking down how American taxpayer's hard-earned money is being spent in these two wars. Reviewing the recent history of wartime contracting has proven a herculean task, but one that is important for our nation, particularly as we are grappling with a massive federal debt and deficit and examining every area of the federal budget to identify savings. Clearly, we need to learn the lessons from our wartime contracting experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Commission's report gives us a good road map to follow so that we can get better results in this area and save money.

"I think all of us can agree that the Commission's finding that between $31 billion to $60 billion spent on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were lost to waste and fraud is deeply disturbing and unacceptable. That is no small amount of money. During these times of record high national debt, and the ongoing debate over deficit reduction, $60 billion in wasteful spending takes on even greater consequence.

"But unlike the weather, we can actually do something about waste and fraud. Congress and the Administration can and should do something to curb these improper payments and wasteful practices, many of which were found by the Commission to be foreseeable and avoidable. Fortunately, the Commission's report provides us with a solid list of recommendations on how to improve operations and oversight.

"One point is consistent throughout the many chapters of the final report: we need to greatly improve the financial systems and controls of the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense's finances have been on the Government Accountability Office's high-risk list since 1995, in part due to pervasive management deficiencies that would never be tolerated in a private sector business. In fact, the Department of Defense is one of only two federal Departments that cannot conduct an agency-wide financial audit.

"I have held several hearings on the need for the Department of Defense to improve its financial management systems, as recently as last week, and while the Department is making progress in addressing these deficiencies, it clearly needs to do more. After all, these deficiencies make it difficult, if not impossible, to know for certain how and when the Department of Defense spends its money. This is unacceptable. The Commission's findings illustrate the far-reaching impact that the Department's disorderly bookkeeping has on its overall operations. Getting the Department's books in order is a critical step to curbing the occurrences of waste, fraud, abuse and financial mismanagement in the Department, including wartime contracting.

"As I've said time and time again, we need to embrace a 'culture of thrift' throughout the federal government, where we look in every nook and cranny of federal spending and search for ways to find better results for less money. This is true for all agencies, especially the Department of Defense, whether it be in inventory bookkeeping or wartime contracting. I hope today's hearing can facilitate an honest discussion of what we need to do as a government to improve in this critical area and beyond."