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McCaskill’s war contracting legislation passes in Senate

The amendment is the most extensive war contracting reform since World War II.

Dec. 4, 2012

On Thursday, the Senate passed Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act, an overhaul of the war contracting industry.

McCaskill’s legislation aims to reform the wartime contracting industry by increasing oversight, reforming overseas contracting practices, promoting transparency and competition in the contracting process and increasing contractor accountability, according to a news release.

The legislation will help establish accountability in the war contracting industry, McCaskill spokesman Drew Pusateri said.

“Right now there is not a clear chain of responsibility,” he said. “(The reform) really establishes one.”

With the legislation’s approval, major portions of the act were attached as amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013, according to the release.

The NDAA, which provides funding for the Department of Defense, is a piece of legislation Congress must pass each year, political science professor Marvin Overby said.

“These appropriations must be done on a yearly basis,” Overby said. “Part of the rationale for that was that it served to limit the scope of government.”

The House of Representatives passed its own version of the NDAA on May 10. The Senate version of the bill is still under consideration.

McCaskill’s act garnered bipartisan support in the Senate. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and received additional support from other Democratic and Independent senators.

Wartime contracting reform has been a priority of McCaskill’s since she took office in 2007. As a freshman senator, McCaskill co-sponsored legislation with Webb to create the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pusateri said. The provision was attached to the NDAA for fiscal year 2008, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

After a three-year investigation, the commission found the U.S. government lost no more than $60 billion to waste and fraud by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the release. The commission also made a series of recommendations about how to improve contractor accountability, which McCaskill then used to draft legislation to reform the industry.

The Senate could pass the NDAA within the next week, Pusateri said. Once the legislation is passed in the Senate, congressmen and senators will meet in conference committee to review each bill and agree on a version to send to the president, Overby said.

“The Constitution requires that the Congress send a (single) bill to the president,” Overby said. “For that to happen, the House and the Senate have to agree on exactly the same language right down to the semicolons, commas and periods.”

It is common for amendments to be added to Senate versions of legislation because Senate floor procedures have fewer restrictions, Overby said. These amendments are sometimes removed in conference committee as House members and Senators compromise on the bill.

McCaskill said she is prepared to fight for her amendment to the legislation.

“Protecting taxpayer dollars isn't the flashiest issue,” she said in the release. “But it's a promise I made to Missourians, and it's something I pledge to continue fighting for, with dogged determination, until this legislation is signed into law."

The legislation is the most far-reaching military contractor reform since World War II, Pusateri said. In 1941, then-Sen. Harry Truman chaired the Truman Committee, which investigated cases of war profiteering, according to Senate historical minutes.

“Harry Truman would be proud of what we accomplished in the Senate here today — a real victory for accountability in government, and something I’ve been fighting for since my first day in the U.S. Senate,” McCaskill said.

Though the Iraq War has ended and the Afghanistan War is drawing to a close, McCaskill said she thinks her legislation will help improve contractor accountability in later conflicts.

“While these wars wind down, we can't lose the urgency to correct these mistakes and prevent them from being repeated in the future,” she said.

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