Paying for war

The Defense Contract Audit Agency reported to Waxman's Oversight Committee this week that nearly 18% of the $57 billion audited so far was wasted. This figure, nearly $10 billion now, is likely to increase before it's all over.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

''There is no accountability,'' said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. ''Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable.''

Imagine how many more soldiers could have been hired? Well, at 2001 figures, 14,285,000 soldiers. That's simply silly because between 2001 and 2006, the cost to recruit 10,000 soldiers went up $500,000, so as of last year this money could only have brought in 8,333,000.

What about taking just the current waste and applying it to soldiers' pay, improving (or funding) the VA?

Or how about just providing our guys with essential equipment?

The Army and Marine Corps are $5 billion short of what they require in fiscal year 2008 to acquire a fleet of armored vehicles designed to provide better protection against roadside bombs -- the scourge of U.S. forces in Iraq -- than the current fleet of humvees.

The two services have spelled out this “unfunded requirement” to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked all of the service chiefs to inform Congress of where more money is required.

The Army and Marine Corps -- which are shouldering the lion’s share of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering the largest proportion of casualties from roadside bombs -- indicated in separate responses to Hunter that their No. 1 unfunded procurement need is for substantial sums to acquire thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicles.

Specifically, the Army says it needs $2.25 billion and the Marine Corps says it needs $2.8 billion. Put together, the two sums would pay for a fleet of approximately 5,000 vehicles optimized to protect passengers from the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

What do you think would be different if the work not done or done exceptionally poorly years ago (it's almost pathetic to "years ago") was properly and efficiently completed?