Senate votes to establish commission on wartime contracts (VPR)

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Davis, Charles

Last week the Senate voted to establish an independent commission to examine wartime contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both of Vermont's senators co-sponsored the measure.

Charles Davis reports from Capitol Hill.

(Davis) Feeding spoiled food to U-S troops. Overcharging for gasoline and for meals that were never served. Those are just some of the charges leveled against private contractors operating in Iraq. Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders says it's time Congress put a stop to it.

(Sanders) "There is already a lot of evidence that they have overcharged the taxpayers of this country. Money that should've been going to our soldiers has been going to make very wealthy people even wealthier."

(Davis) Sanders says a commission is needed to investigate how contracts in Iraq were awarded. He singles out for criticism the company Halliburton, which was once headed by Vice President Cheney. He charges that the firm, which gave more than a quarter million dollars to Republicans last year, has received special treatment from the White House. He says it's an issue the administration wants to avoid.

(Sanders) "When you have a situation where the Vice President's own company, Halliburton, was awarded a five year, $16 billion contract for the Iraq war, $7 billion in no-bid contracts. And then the same company which makes over $3 billion in profits last year moves to Dubai, do I think that these are issues that they want to talk about? Of course they don't want to talk about it."

(Davis) A recent government study found that one out of every six dollars spent on private contractors in Iraq was misused. Sanders thinks a commission investigating that misuse could bring some accountability - in the form of jail time. But he also wants to go further and examine the military's increased reliance on private firms in general. It's estimated that there around 180,000 private contractors in Iraq - more than the number of U-S troops.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Charles Davis on Capitol Hill.