Defense notebook: Tierney readies bill creating special inspector general

A House Democrat intends to introduce legislation when Congress returns that would create a new inspector general to probe contingency contracting.

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), wants congressional leaders to “swiftly pass” the bill that would create the new IG, which was called for in the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. That report was released Wednesday.

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“It is clear that we need to have systems in place to audit and monitor how U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent as soon as the U.S. puts troops on the ground and to enhance prospects for the future safety of our troops,” Tierney said in a news release. “The kind of waste we have witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be repeated.”

Tierney is the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

Of the $206 billion that will have been spent by month’s end on private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, between $31 billion and $60 billion has been lost to waste and fraud, the commission said in its final report.

“The Commission on Wartime Contracting’s conclusions are alarming, and its recommendations must be taken seriously by Congress,” Tierney said. “The Commission’s work further evidences why it is essential for Congress to continue to conduct rigorous oversight so as to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure accountability.”

McKeon speaks

Defense spending is expected to be a major part of the debate when Congress returns Wednesday and the 12-member bipartisan supercommittee begins searching for ways to pare the federal deficit.

Defense sector insiders and congressional aides are bracing for a loud and intense debate.

Many Democrats, and some Republicans, have called for more cuts to annual Pentagon budgets even beyond the $350 billion over 10 years included in a debt-reducing bill passed in early August.

But such hawkish lawmakers as Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, will be among those leading a full-throated rebuttal. He is slated to meet with reporters Sept. 7, and it is a safe bet budget cuts will be topic No. 1.

McKeon has for months argued against big defense cuts while America is waging two large wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and supporting another NATO-led conflict in Libya.

An aide says McKeon will also discuss other defense issues.

Poll: Confidence in terror fight high

The nation’s confidence in the federal government continues to remain low, but a new poll concludes that the public believes Washington is succeeding against terrorism.

An American Enterprise Institute poll released this week found 70 percent of those polled believe the federal government is doing well in fighting terrorism.

Of every 10 people who were surveyed, six still believe inserting U.S. forces into Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks was the right thing to do. Seven of 10 polled believe there will be another terrorist attack in the United States.

Cyberwar costs unclear

As annual Pentagon spending is coming down, the military is gearing up to fight on a new battlefield: cyberspace.

Russia, China and North Korea all have been linked to major cyberattacks in recent years, with American officials saying recent strikes on U.S. military networks originated in China.

Numerous think tank reports have concluded that most of the federal government — including the Defense Department — is not yet ready to defend its networks.

To do the job, Pentagon officials have said the government might need to hire up to 30,000 cyberspecialists.

But Nelsie Alcoser, a Government Accountability Office analyst, said it is not yet clear how many cyberexperts might be needed, or how much a cadre of cyberspecialists might cost the Defense Department.