It's rare these days to find something on which both Democrats and Republicans agree. But the recent report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting revealing a gross waste of money by private entities employed to help carry out the U.S. mission in Iraq and Afghanistan has both Sen. Scott Brown, the lone Republican in the Bay State delegation, and Rep. John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, howling in disgust.
Simply put, the report found that over the past decade, between $30 billion and $60 billion in money appropriated for military and recovery operations in those countries has either been wasted or, worse, gone to the enemy.
According to The Associated Press, "U.S. military authorities in Kabul believe $360 million has ended up in the hands of the Taliban criminals and power brokers with ties to both."
How? Again according to the AP, "The money is typically lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection."
Brown and Tierney have both proposed legislation in their respective chambers that would more effectively monitor the uses to which U.S. resources are put during a time of war. Brown recently returned from a National Guard stint in Afghanistan, while Tierney has been raising the alarm about wasteful spending for years from his seat on the House National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Oversight Subcommittee.
While some might say their initiatives come too late, given the fact that both wars are winding down, there no doubt will be other conflicts in other parts of the world into which the U.S. pours billions of dollars.
The aim should be not only to prevent a repeat of the shameful experience revealed by the Wartime Contracting Commission's report, but to keep a close eye on all endeavors, foreign and domestic, that necessitate massive expenditures of federal money. Certainly, we have seen other examples of waste much closer to home, ranging from the Big Dig to the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Sometimes, it's a case of there being so much money around that nobody's going to notice how it's spent — or misspent. Other times, involving natural disasters or terrorist attacks, the priority is to get the money out and worry about how effectively it was spent later.
Given our current debt load, Congress ought to make sure that every dollar spent, regardless of the circumstances, is spent wisely.