The reconstruction blame game

At Mother Jones, Daniel Schulman writes:

After years of a US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilding and stabilization projects remain disjointed and chaotic, resulting in wasted taxpayer dollars and, potentially, the deaths of soldiers and civilians. Meanwhile, the nearly six-year-old State Department office that was supposed to coordinate these efforts isn’t even fully operational. And for that, according to the official who heads the division, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is partly to blame.

As the Obama administration surges soldiers and civilians into Afghanistan, the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (known as S/CRS) is a key player in synchronizing the alphabet soup of agencies and divisions involved in the effort. But its effectiveness has come under fire—from Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and from members of the congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting. On Monday, the commission held a hearing on coordination failures and grilled officials from the Pentagon, the US Agency for International Development, and the State Department on their teamwork. Not masking his anger, Chris Shays, the panel’s co-chair and a former Republican congressman from Connecticut, laid out the stakes: “The lack of coordination costs billions and billions and billions of dollars—huge waste, which means that we don’t optimize the dollars that we spend. It also results in the loss of lives in our military, the loss of lives in our diplomatic corps, the loss lives of our civil servants, the loss of lives of our contractors…It’s a huge, huge issue.”

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