Friday, September 21, 2007

We're Only In It For The Money

Military officials said Thursday that contracts worth $6 billion to provide essential supplies to American troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan — including food, water and shelter — were under review by criminal investigators, double the amount the Pentagon had previously disclosed.

In addition, $88 billion in contracts and programs, including those for body armor for American soldiers and matériel for Iraqi and Afghan security forces, are being audited for financial irregularities, the officials said.

Taken together, the figures, provided by the Pentagon in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, represent the fullest public accounting of the magnitude of a widening government investigation into bid-rigging, bribery and kickbacks by members of the military and civilians linked to the Pentagon's purchasing system.

Until the hearing on Thursday, the Army's most detailed public disclosure about the scale of the problem was that contracts worth $3 billion awarded by the Kuwait office were under review. ...

The lawmakers also challenged assertions by the Pentagon officials that the corruption being uncovered was the work of a few isolated individuals. Several committee members suggested that the abuses were far more systemic.

"The problems were so severe that I fear they could represent a culture of corruption," said Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri, the chairman of the committee. "I am extremely disappointed to learn that so many individuals violated their integrity and undermined the oaths they made to this country."

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