MoJo on Waste in Military Contracts

In a story today for Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein spotlights what sounds like a deficit reduction opportunity:

It was just a single contract for a single job on a single base in Iraq. The Department of Defense agreed to pay the megacontractor KBR $5 million a year to repair tactical vehicles, from Humvees to big rigs, at Joint Base Balad, a large airfield and supply center north of Baghdad. Yet according to a new Pentagon report [PDF], what the military got was as many as 144 civilian mechanics, each doing as little as 43 minutes of work a month, with virtually no oversight. The report, issued March 3 by the DOD’s inspector general, found that between late 2008 and mid-2009, KBR performed less than 7 percent of the work it was expected to do, but still got paid in full.

As Weinstein acknowledges, the $4.6 million the Pentagon inspector general says was blown on this contract is “a relatively small loss.” So it’s not a tremendous surprise that, as he wrote in a related blog post, a member of a wartime contracting commission told him he was the only journalist to read the report.

Still, he puts together a solid argument that this episode offers insight into systemic—and costly—waste in military contracts, which shows no signs of abating even as our uniformed deployment to Iraq dwindles. And with a hearing on just that very topic set for Monday, here’s hoping this story helps focus the attention of the media, and of readers, on that issue.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.