A congressionally established commission estimates that between $31 billion and $61 billion have been lost due to contract waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. The panel says reforms are needed to prevent the same problems from cropping up in future contingency operations.

In a final report, released on Aug. 31, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan made 15 recommendations to cut down on future fraud and waste. They include establishing a full-time inspector general for contingency operations and taking action to mitigate the threat of additional waste from projects that are not sustainable. The panel did not specify how much of the dollars lost were from construction projects and how much were from security and other contracts.

Co-Chairman Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, says that although fraud is a problem, the bigger challenge is waste. He says, “We have found billions of dollars of waste stemming from a variety of shortcomings: poor decision-making, vague contract requirements, lack of adequately trained federal oversight people in the field, duplicative or unnecessary work, failure to revise or re-compete contracts, unsustainable projects, inadequate business processes among contractors and delayed audits.”

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) says he plans to hold a hearing on the commission's findings. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) says he intends to introduce a bill soon to create a permanent federal inspector general for contingency operations.