Dems want probe of Iraq contracts

Two leading Senate Democrats are asking Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) to investigate allegations of Iraq contracting abuses highlighted by Democratic Policy Committee hearings.

“These matters fall clearly within your committee’s jurisdiction, and they have a direct bearing on our troops’ mission and safety in Iraq, as well as on the use of taxpayer dollars,” Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) wrote yesterday in a letter to Warner. “In the alternative, we would hope that you would support the creation of a special committee of the Senate — modeled after the Truman Committee during World War II — to conduct oversight hearings on Iraq contracting.”

Democrats have long complained that the Republican-controlled Congress is not conducting proper oversight of the administration’s prosecution of the war in Iraq and its awarding of reconstruction contracts.

Dorgan and Durbin attached an 18-page “findings” document detailing what they say are a pattern of abuses related to contracting in Iraq.

“These witnesses and reports reveal a disturbing pattern of abuse and mismanagement by the Department of Defense, Halliburton, and the Coalition Provisional Authority,” the findings document reads. “Although administration officials pride themselves on both management expertise and national security credentials, their inability to maintain proper oversight of military contractors has cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that could otherwise purchase necessary armor and equipment for American troops.”

Among the findings listed in the letter are allegations of a series of alleged abuses by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

John Ullyot, Warner’s spokesman, said the committee has held three acquisition-reform hearings in the past three months, adding that “we’re always interested in the perspectives of other senators” on determining future hearings.