One of the major problems with rapid military deployments is the potential for huge amounts of waste stemming from hasty private contracting of services such as commodity transport or mess hall operations.
A measure aimed at better management of such contracts was approved recently by the Senate, a move long advocated by Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
Last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting — a body created at McCaskill's urging — reported that going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq entailed massive waste, as much as $60 billion of the $200 billion spent on private contracts.
The overhaul of wartime contracting measures was attached to the defense authorization bill, which must also be approved by the House.
Among other things, McCaskill's measure would improve the way contracts are managed, expand planning requirements and boost oversight responsibility of inspectors general. It would also increase competition, a critical element in any successful contracting policy.
Since the Vietnam era, when uniformed troops took their turn washing mess hall trays or serving chow, the involvement of private contractors has become increasingly essential to military preparedness. But successful contracting requires close supervision and consistent accountability.
McCaskill deserves credit for advancing these goals. If her measure becomes law, the next military deployment may entail less waste for the taxpayer.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.