Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said about the war in Iraq, “There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.”
Here’s something that we know: The U.S. government spent a fortune trying to rebuild Iraq.
And here’s what we know we don’t know: How much of that fortune was wasted.
That’s the official word of the special inspector general assigned to oversee Iraq reconstruction.
As Neil Gordon writes for the blog of the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight about the $51 billion Congress appropriated for that purpose:
“The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known,” according to the report, “but SIGIR believes it is significant.” (For what it’s worth, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan last year estimated the fraud and waste in those two countries combined is between $31 billion and $60 billion.)
The various internal control weaknesses responsible for the fraud and waste include inadequate reviews of contractors’ invoices, insufficient numbers of or inadequately trained oversight staff, poor inventory controls, high staff turnover, poor recordkeeping, insufficient price competition by subcontractors, and weak oversight of cash disbursements. As of June 30, SIGIR has questioned over $635 million in Iraq reconstruction costs.
You heard it: Despite the work of outside watchdogs like POGO and journalists using investigative techniques and the Freedom of Information Act — for which Rumsfeld was a co-sponsor when he was a Congressman from Illinois — the amount of money that went down the drain in Iraq is officially a “known unknown.”
Read the complete IG report for yourself at this link.
Jennifer Peebles is the Washington Examiner’s data editor. Follow her on Twitter at @DCPeebles.
Photo: U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division run to a Blackhawk helicopter after conducting a search for weapons caches March 12, 2008, in Albu Issa, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Luke Thornberry. Used via a Creative Commons license.