Iraq rebuilding hit by bad planning
The US government failed to prepare adequate procurement and contracting
systems before its 2003 invasion of Iraq, a predicament that has severely
hampered the $20bn (16bn, £11bn) reconstruction effort, according to a
report released to Congress on Wednesday.
Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, said
the US needed to overhaul and simplify its current contracting and
procurement procedures for universal use in future post-conflict
In a 140-page report to Congress, Mr Bowen detailed how a hodge-podge
approach to the reconstruction effort, which engaged multiple US
government agencies with overlapping jurisdictions, led to procurement
and contracting policies that occasionally came into conflict.
Although he stressed before lawmakers at the Senate homeland security
committee that aspects of the reconstruction effort had improved, Mr
Bowens report was met with frustration by legislators, who increasingly
link the ultimate outcome of the war with the success or failure of the
I dont know if weve ever had such a post-conflict challenge. I have to
believe from a historical point of view that this miscalculation [on
postwar reconstruction planning] will go down as a major mistake that we
made, said Senator George Voinovich.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is facing an unexpectedly tough election
challenge largely because of his strong support for the war, blamed the
Bush administration for taking far too many short cuts in its planning
and implementation of the reconstruction of Iraq.
Mr Bowen, a former attorney for President George W. Bush who is preparing
for his 13th trip to Iraq on Monday, has been a frequent bearer of bad
news on US reconstruction efforts. In a series of audits released in
recent days, the inspector- general has highlighted the pervasive
corruption in Iraq that threatens the nations future; the heavy toll
the lack of security has taken on reconstruction efforts; and significant
questions about the sustainability of US projects once they are handed
over to Iraqis.
In a separate report that investigated their sustainability, Mr Bowens
office found that there was no overall strategic plan for the handover of
reconstruction projects to the Iraqi government, whose commitment to
sustaining US projects was uncertain because Iraq had not yet set its
Although Mr Bowen has highlighted six recommendations to Congress,
including the institutionalisation of smaller scale contracting
programmes that are developed on the ground to meet specific needs in
post-conflict areas, his report highlights some early resistance to the
suggestions by some government agencies.
Mr Bowen testified on Wednesday that the first thing General George
Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, had told him at a November meeting
was the need for the US to improve how it regulates rapid contracting
activity, which needed to be more uniform and accessible.
But in its report to Congress, the office of the special
inspector-general indicated that the State Department believed the
current system was flexible enough to meet contracting needs and that
more training could remedy current problems.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006