Monday, July 25, 2011

State Dept to SIGIR: Son of a donkey, you have no bizness checking on our private army!

Special Inspector General for Iraq ReconstructionImage via WikipediaSpencer Ackerman of Danger Room has a recent exclusive on the pissing contest currently unfolding between Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and Patrick Kennedy, the State Department's Under Secretary for Management. What are they fighting over? Apparently for starters, the oversight of private security contractors in Iraq. Excerpts:

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.
So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.
About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.

I wonder if the State Department would relent if SIGIR's name gets tweaked to Special Security Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. We would all still call it SIGIR, right?

Continue reading U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq.

SIGIR was created in October 2004 by a congressional amendment to Public Law 108-106 triggered by the June 28, 2004, dissolution of the CPA.  The amendment allowed SIGIR to continue the oversight that CPA-IG (Coalition Provisional Authority Office of Inspector General) established for Iraq reconstruction programs and operations. Specifically, SIGIR is mandated with the oversight responsibility of the use, and potential misuse, of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) and all obligations, expenditures, and revenues associated with reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Iraq.

Not sure when is SIGIR actually gets terminated but its website indicates that an amendment to a public law puts it "ten months after 80% of the IRRF has been expended." Since DOD is leaving Iraq, and since the PRTs are closing shop or transitioning into diplomatic posts, I imagine that the 80% had been reached and presumably SIGIR will be disbanded "soon."

But SIGIR still wants to look under the rocks, particularly those related to the State Department's expanded private army in Iraq. And frankly, I don't think its a bad idea.

Reportedly, staffing in Iraq will grow from 8,000 to 17,000, most of them presumably will be private security contractors.  The State Department will be running its own hospitals and its own air fleet, also by contractors. I have been following this closely but have no idea what the logistics would be like for life support - food, fuel, water, etc. This is the first time the State Department is undertaking a gargantuan mission in what is still hostile territory. 

I suspect that the State Dept would like to have its own IG conduct the Iraq reviews. But given that SIGIR has at least seven years experience in Iraq, the State Dept's resistance on this issue does not look good.

A draft bill in Congress addresses the SIGIR issue with the State Dept including the following:
(b) COOPERATION WITH SIGIR.—The Secretary of State shall fully and unreservedly cooperate with audits conducted by the SIGIR and with any information requests which in the opinion of the SIGIR are required to comply with requirements imposed on the SIGIR by law.

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