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Senator wants answers on Army contracting issues

July 17, 2017 (Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Following a study which found numerous problems with Army contracting practices, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to know what service officials are going to do to fix them.

In a letter to acting Army Secretary Robert Speer today, McCaskill — the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — asked for updates on contracting processes to ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t being wasted due to inefficiencies, inattentiveness or mistakes.

“It's essential that we continue to cut waste in government contracting, and I look forward to ensuring the Army takes steps to make their process more effective and efficient,” she said in a statement.

Army officials spent more than $74 billion on outside contracts in 2016 alone.

A June Government Accountability Office study — done at McCaskill’s request — found that while Army leaders do conduct department-wide contracting reviews, those efforts are more focused on making sure contracting money is being spent on time rather than ensuring the money is being spent wisely.

Researchers also said service leaders lack “adequate metrics” to determine whether contracting operations are meeting the Army’s needs.

In a statement to GAO, Army officials agreed with seven of the researchers’ eight recommendations, most of which involve better reporting and collection of contractor data. They said a new savings metric will be introduced in early 2018, but pushed back against the idea of using certain evaluations for the quality of contractors’ products and services.

McCaskill in her letter demanded an explanation for that resistance, asking how the Army believes “it can engage in meaningful oversight without quality metrics.”

Her push comes after months of promises from President Donald Trump’s White House to stamp out waste, fraud and abuse in federal operations. But he has also pushed for big increases in military spending, arguing that the armed services were dangerously underfunded in recent years.

GAO officials have also voiced concerns with the Army’s use of “bridge contracts,” extensions to existing deals that critics say limit competition for future purchases and services.

 
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.
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