McCaskill to head new contracting oversight committee

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has created a subcommittee to oversee federal contracting. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will be its chairwoman.

Contract management “is a problem area that needs as much oversight as we can possibly muster,” Lieberman said Jan. 28 as he created the Ad Hoc Contracting Oversight Subcommittee.

Lieberman’s committee has had a longstanding interest in reducing mismanagement and abuse in contracting. The committee has held numerous hearings on contracting problems within the Homeland Security Department, waste in Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction programs, and problems created by private contractors in war zones. It has also investigated the rapid increase governmentwide in contracting for goods and services.

McCaskill has unique investigative experience and has already pushed contracting reforms in the previous Congress, Lieberman said. Some of her reforms were included in the fiscal 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3001). Lieberman added that McCaskill will approach the subcommittee work with unmatched vigor.

“Last year we made major strides in contracting accountability by establishing the Wartime Contracting Commission, and while I look forward to those investigations, we all know that outrageous contracting abuses occur in every facet of government,” McCaskill said. “I can't wait to get to work saving huge money for taxpayers. They deserve it.”

Contracting, particularly concerning practices at the Defense Department and NASA, has remained on the Government Accountability Office's High-Risk list for 17 years and 19 years, respectively. On the 2009 High Risk List, GAO continues to conclude that government contracting is susceptible to abuse and needs comprehensive reform because agencies often mismanage their contracts.

Despite the potential for problems, the government today relies heavily on contractors. DOD obligated more than $315 billion on contracts for goods and services in fiscal 2007, which is more than double the amount it spent six years ago, according to GAO.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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