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Project on Government Oversight

Is the U.S. State Department up to the Post-War Challenges in Iraq?

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December 15, 2011

Statement of Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight

With the nation’s attention focused on today’s end of the war in Iraq, it’s easy to overlook the unprecedented challenge ahead for the U.S. Department of State.

Although the troops are on their way home, the U.S. is planning to maintain a sizeable footprint in Iraq. The presence will reportedly include four major diplomatic centers and some 15,000 personnel. It’s expected to cost about $3.8 billion for the first year alone.

To meet this challenge, which includes managing everything from transportation to food services, the U.S. Government will rely heavily on the use of contractors. And because Iraq still resembles a war zone, the State Department is planning to more than double its reliance on private security contractors.

From the Blackwater shootings in Nissour Square to the Lord of the Flies environment at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the State Department’s history of managing contractors is reason for concern. With the absence of a permanent Inspector General and the coming end of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, these concerns are all the more heightened.

After the White House finishes with today’s celebration, we hope it wastes no time in focusing on the need to improve its game when it comes to oversight of the contractors we are leaving behind.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.