It's a pretty belated idea -- what with $6 billion worth of Pentagon contracts under criminal investigation
-- but today, freshman Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill are introducing an amendment to the defense appropriations bill creating an independent, bipartisan commission to study the contracting process for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The eight-member commission would be staffed by appointees of the Congressional leadership, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. From a joint press release release:
The Commission will study and investigate the extent and impact of this growing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions. Its focus will encompass the policies, procedures, processes, and performance associated with wartime contracting and contracts. It also will assess the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, and the extent to which those responsible have been held financially and legally accountable. The appropriateness of agenciesâ structure, policies, and processes for wartime and contingency contracts also will be assessed.
That's not all.
Tucked into the amendment is handwritten language sure to upset private military companies. The envisioned commission will be authorized to investigate "the extent of the misuse of force or violations of the laws of war or federal statutes by contractors." The commission wouldn't be toothless, either: it would have the power to subpoena contractor or agency documents and testimony.
All that raises the question, even after the Blackwater debacle, of whether the amendment can pass. John Warner (R-VA) has just come out against it on the grounds that it would take power away from the Senate Armed Services Committee. Stay tuned.