WASHINGTON - The Army is ordering a major overhaul of the way it buys supplies for troops in combat zones as the number of criminal investigations into wartime contract fraud nears triple figures.
Chief among the moves is the formation of a new contracting command to better manage military purchasing in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, according to a memo written by Army Secretary Pete Geren and obtained by The Associated Press.
To be run by generals, the post will control an enterprise stained by scandal and long unappreciated by other sectors of the Army.
Geren's one-page memo, dated Jan. 30, directs the Army's existing contracting agency to be replaced by the new command, which is being designed to have broad authority over the acquisition of items ranging from bottled water to bullets.
The Army Contracting Command will be headed initially by Jeffrey Parsons, a civilian official, an appointment that underscores how few senior Army officers there are with extensive credentials in defense contracting.
The position eventually will be filled by a two-star general who will have two one-star generals as deputies.
The panel, chaired by former Pentagon acquisition chief Jacques Gansler, said the Army's contracting employees were "understaffed, overworked, under-trained, under-supported and, most important, undervalued."
Those shortcomings created an environment ripe for the contract fraud scandals now plaguing the Army, the panel concluded.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command has 91 ongoing criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, according to spokesman Chris Grey.
Grey said 26 U.S. citizens have been charged with contract fraud — 19 of those are military and civilian government employees — and more than $15 million in bribes has changed hands.
In its 106-page report, the Gansler panel rebuked the Army for sending a "skeleton contracting force" into Iraq to support the troops.
It's not that there aren't any Generals who can do the job. Virtually any one of them could. It's that most of them are engaged in enriching themselves now that they've taken off the uniform. Why bother to fill a job like this when corporation x will pay four or five times the salary for one tenth of the work? Hey--look at Tommy Franks. He can rake in $100,000 or so just by letting a shitty charity steal money while plastering his mug on their website. As a matter of fact, would YOU want Tommy Franks to take judgement like that and apply it to fixing the procurement fraud? No thanks.
Those condos at "seizure" World in Northern Virginia don't come cheap, ya know.
Procurement fraud just isn't the sexy, exciting and fun topic that it should be. But it's about taking large sums of money and stealing them from YOU, the taxpayer. Imagine someone running into a bank and running out with a massive pile of cash that they then use to put a new addition on their McMansion. I know, it's still not sexy.