Duckworth calls for investigation of foreign spending since 9/11|
BY PAT CORCORAN | STAFF WRITER
Citing wasteful spending and a lack of accountability by federal lawmakers, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District, last week called on Congress to audit the estimated $437 billion spent on overseas military and foreign aid since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
A helicopter pilot with the Illinois National Guard in Iraq in 2004, Duckworth said she observed a lack of oversight of contractors such as Halliburton, which has alone received more than $12.3 billion worth of contracts to provide services to troops and civilians.
For example, replacement cooks hired by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root performed chow hall duties traditionally assigned to cooks within Duckworth's own unit. The mostly Pakistani and Nepalese employees were paid 50 cents an hour while Halliburton was paid $22 for each meal it served, according to Duckworth's account.
Halliburton also was contracted to secure American bases with tens of thousands of sandbags. The company hired local Iraqis and paid them 5 cents or 10 cents for each sandbag they filled. Halliburton received 80 cents per sandbag, Duckworth said she had heard.
"Someone was making a bundle," she said. "These stories are so maddening to those of us who served in Iraq because, despite this waste, we still didn't have what we needed. You've heard the stories about soldiers going out without body armor, about Humvees not equipped with armor -- they are all true."
Kellogg, Brown & Root received additional contracts in Iraq for building housing and repairing damaged oil fields. It has been criticized by others, including U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., for circumventing procedures used to award government contracts.
Duckworth discussed her experiences during a Aug. 8 campaign stop in Chicago with James Webb, a Vietnam veteran, a former Navy Secretary and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Virginia. She is running against Wheaton attorney and state Sen. Peter Roskam, R-48th, for the 6th Congressional District seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, a Republican.
The 38-year-old Hoffman Estates resident's tour in Iraq ended when she was severely wounded during a rocket attack on her Blackhawk helicopter.
"Real and meaningful oversight has taken a back seat to partisan inaction," she said. "With the right kind of leadership Congress can bring greater fiscal discipline and accountability to the billions of dollars we are spending on our military efforts."
Duckworth said the war in Iraq was a mistake because the Bush Administration ignored the advice of experts before the invasion and dismissed the challenges facing troops once Saddam Hussein was removed from power, but she is proud of her military service and said she would return if called on.
She opposes an immediate withdrawal, but has called for an aggressive plan to train Iraqi troops and transfer responsibility to Iraqi leadership.
Roskam says the military needs to stay the course to resolve the conflict.