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McCaskill Grills Defense Chief on Oversight of U.S. Tax Dollars in Afghanistan

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL

McCaskill Grills Defense Chief on Oversight of U.S. Tax Dollars in Afghanistan: Senator quizzes Hagel, Dempsey on dwindling number of Afghanistan projects able to be audited for waste, fraud, abuse

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today used a Senate hearing to quiz the nation’s top military leaders on the dwindling oversight for taxpayer-funded projects in Afghanistan.

McCaskill challenged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to answer to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction citing ambiguous benchmarks for progress, unrealistic goals, flawed implementation of programs, and lack of performance oversight, putting at risk hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars.

“The Inspector General over there for reconstruction has indicated to you saying that, ‘no more than 21 percent of Afghanistan will be accessible for oversight by the end of this year,’” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “I will be looking very carefully at the budget when it arrives after the elections to see if we are finally realizing that building their power grid, their water system, and their highways in an insecure environment is not a good use of our money.”

Earlier this year, McCaskill called for action from the State Department to implement safeguards over the contracts to stop the waste of tax money. The Inspector General’s report came nearly one year after McCaskill had formally requested that the office review the contracts.

“Where is the data that this stuff works in a counter insurgency?” McCaskill continued, “We started assuming that military doing infrastructure projects was an effective way to fight in a counter insurgency situation, and I don’t know if we can prove it works.”

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction position was created by Congress in 2008 with the purpose of detecting and preventing waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan. In 2010, McCaskill successfully called on the President to remove then Special Inspector General Arnold Fields amid concerns of incompetence and mismanagement. Following Fields’ dismissal, McCaskill repeatedly pressed the President to appoint a new permanent watchdog. John Sopko was appointed as Special Inspector General in May 2012.

McCaskill also requested an official response from Secretary Hagel and Gen. Dempsey about where the Pentagon would get the additional resources required to fulfill the proposed requirements of full-time O-6 judge advocates under a proposal by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand amid the ongoing debate over how best to curb sexual assaults in the military. Pentagon officials have warned of staffing and resource challenges of the Gillibrand proposal, and McCaskill specifically cited the proposal’s provision that forbids new resources for the new offices.

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