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Latest figures on Afghanistan war contracts

By Ed O'Keefe

The U.S. has spent more than $23 billion through contracts in Afghanistan since 2002 and has spent at least almost $1 billion on wasteful or questionable agreements, according a staff of the Congressional subcommittee that oversees contracting. The figures were sent to lawmakers in a memo ahead of a Thursday hearing on the future of contracting in Afghanistan as President Obama's new war plans take shape.

Members of the Senate subcommittee on government contracting oversight will hear Thursday afternoon from officials with the Army, Defense Department, State Department and USAID.

"Currently, there is a great deal we do not know about contracting in Afghanistan," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the subcommittee's chairwoman. "We do know, however, that the president’s new strategy in Afghanistan will bring a massive increase in the number and value of contracts and contractors in Afghanistan."

Earlier this year the subcommittee first exposed serious concerns about the State Department's private security contract for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

McCaskill is expected to question officials about what, if any lessons were learned from contracting mistakes in Iraq and how agencies and departments are ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately.

According to the memo from McCaskill staffers:

• The U.S. has spent more than $23 billion through contracts in Afghanistan since 2002, according to the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).

• Approximately $950 million in questioned and unsupported costs have been submitted by Pentagon contractors for work in Afghanistan, according to federal auditors.

As colleague Walter Pincus reported earlier this week, 104,000 Defense Department contractors currently work in Afghanistan and the troop increase may result in an additional 56,000 contractors.

• As of March, the State Department employed 3,600 contractors in Afghanistan and USAID employed 14,000. The true number of their contractors there is likely higher, given known errors in available contractor personnel data.

• The number of DOD contractors in Afghanistan jumped 40 percent between June and September. The number of armed private security contractors working for the Pentagon there also doubled to more than 10,000.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 17, 2009; 2:34 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Contracting  
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160,000 contractors including the estimated increase of 56k. Wow. Are these people armed mercenaries, outnumbering the combat troops? Why is there no mention of what type of contract work they are doing? Are some road construction, housing & tents, hot meal providers, drinking water providers, mechanics, drivers, or are they so-called "security" contractors, i.e. MERCENARIES??? If they are Mercs, be advised, they have no protection under the Geneva Convention, even if they are Americans and they do not answer to the military and therefore do not answer to the Commander in Chief. (No, not Bernanke...the President.

Posted by: CVal | December 18, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I would imagine that most of those increased positions are support organizations, building waterworks, roads and basic shelters for the troops.

Contract security types would not be the significant number there. The old rule of thumb was a 1:5 ratio. 1 combat soldier to 5 support personnel.

Posted by: dennisclark | December 18, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

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