The costs (Wally)
You got Wally with you tonight.
The good news for the day? Congress is concerned -- as evidenced by constant remarks today at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing -- with spending in at least some cases.
The hearing should have been entitled "What The F**K Is Going On With Iraq?" As the hearing progressed, it became really clear that there was this huge ocean between what was going on and what the press had been reporting. (No, Virginia, all US troops are not leaving Iraq.)
Senator John McCain was the first to bring up the issue of contractors and cost.
Senator John McCain: So, Secretary Panetta, we're now going to have a residual presence in Iraq of 16,000 American Embassy personnel and workers, isn't that correct.
Secretary Leon Panetta: I believe with contractors, that's correct.
Senator John McCain: And how are we planning on ensuring the security of 16,000 Americans?
Secretary Leon Panetta: A lot of those 16,000 Americans are security people.
Senator John McCain: So we will now be using civilian contractors to protect and maintain the security of the State Department personnel. The largest embassy personnel in the world. Is that correct?
Secretary Leon Panetta: That's correct.
Senator John McCain: And the comparative cost of a contractor versus a military individual is dramatically different. Cost of a contract personnel is dramatically higher than the cost of an ordinary service member, correct?
Secretary Leon Panetta: I believe you are correct --
Senator John McCain: So in these times --
Secretary Leon Panetta: -- and I can give you an accurate answer later.
Senator John McCain: -- I think, so in these times of fiscal austerity, we withdraw our troops and hire a bunch of contractors who either rightly or wrongly do not have a good reputation as opposed to the uniformed military in order to secure the safety of some thousands, X thousands of -- certain thousands who are there for security and some thousands of the 16,000 who are there are divided up that way.
Time and again, I felt Defense Secretary Panetta and General Martin Dempsey attempted to spin and ignore the question. I think Senator Kelly Ayotte did as well. When she was sort of dismissed after asking about the cost issue, she pointed out that the cost overruns are expected to be serious according to the GAO and I thought, "I wish she'd started there."
I know the press is all ga-ga over McCain supposedly being rude to Panetta and Panetta coming back in kind but that was pretty much John McCain as always, if you ask me.
Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Scott Brown and, I believe, Senator Susan Collins also raised the cost issue.
But while they pressed, Panetta and Dempsey didn't bother to really answer.
At one point, we were being told, by Dempsey, that the military was helping the State Dept. with training on contracting.
That's good news . . . if you missed the hearings earlier about how the military is way behind in billing and can't even reconcile its accounts due to its very poor accounting system.
So, as they say, that's the blind leading the blind.
There needs to be a hearing on the costs of continuing the war because the American people really aren't prepared for all the lost money.
Now here's C.I..'s 'Iraq snapshot:'