Rep. Issa Questions Obama’s ‘Private Army’ in Iraq, Afghanistan
by Nathan Hodge at Washington Wire Oct 6, 2011
The U.S. government’s reliance on private security contractors is no secret: Earlier this year, State Department officials disclosed plans to hire a 5,100-strong force to guard diplomats, guard embassy buildings and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles in Iraq.
But Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wants answers from the White House on how much more this private force may grow.
“Americans would be shocked to learn that during your administration, in fact, the numbers [of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan] have drastically increased,” Rep. Issa said in a letter sent this week to President Barack Obama. “Despite poor oversight and unacceptable levels of waste, fraud and abuse, the numbers of private security contractor boots on the ground and the price tag have only gone up during your administration.”
In his letter, Rep. Issa requested the administration provide more specifics on its plans for hiring private security. “The American people have a right to know the past, present, and future status of private security contractors in these regions,” he wrote.
Rep. Issa, in many respects, is taking a page from Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), his predecessor as chair of the oversight committee, who held a series of hearings on 2007 to probe the George W. Bush administration’s dependence on private security contractors. His letter even quotes Rep. Waxman, who grilled Erik Prince, founder of security firm Blackwater, in a high-profile hearing, asking: “Are we paying more and getting less?”
But Rep. Issa also noted Mr. Obama’s own skepticism about the use of contractors while on the campaign trail.
“I do not believe we have an answer to Chairman Waxman’s question,” he said.
The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a congressionally mandated panel that led a three-year investigation into battlefield contracting, recently recommended that the U.S. government look for ways to reduce its dependence on security contractors.