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Hi, everyone.  As you know, my Dad is Jack Carter, who's running for US Senate in Nevada.  Today, I want to talk about my Dad's opponent, John Ensign.  John Ensign is the chair of the Armed Forces subcommittee on Readiness.   In that role, part of his job is to oversee how money is spent for Iraq reconstruction.  The contracting company Halliburton is a major recipient of that money, and it's likely that there is a lot of wasteful spending and/or fraud.  John Ensign promised almost a year ago to hold hearings into the matter.  He has not fulfilled his promise, and has just recently indicated that he does not intend to fulfill that promise.

His initial promise was made to Senator Byron Dorgan on the floor of the Senate on November 9, 2005.  The following is an excerpt from the official Congressional record on that date (here's the link):

Mr. DORGAN:  "Millions in U.S. Property Lost in Iraq, Report Says; Halliburton Claims Figures Only 'projections'." "Halliburton Unable to Prove $1.8 Billion in Work, Pentagon Says." "Halliburton Faces Criminal Investigation," Houston Chronicle. "Pentagon Proving Alleged Overcharges for Iraq Fuel." "Uncle Sam Looks Into Meal Bills; Halliburton Refunds $27 million as a Result."

You would think with all of this you would have committees in the Congress saying: Wait a second, we are going to pull back the curtain. We are going to have tough investigations to evaluate what is happening, what is happening to the American taxpayer, what is happening with contracts that are given without any competition, soul-source, no-bid contracts.

Mr. ENSIGN: Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a comment?

Mr. DORGAN. Of course.

Mr. ENSIGN. I want to inform the Senator from North Dakota that, hopefully, when we come back for a couple days in December, as the chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, I plan on holding hearings on exactly this. I plan on pulling that curtain back. I plan on getting into the investigation in the same way as Harry Truman. If it happens to be it is embarrassing to the administration, we are going to find out the truth on this--just like Harry Truman went after those cost-plus contracts in those days. It is not only the soul-source aspect, it is also the fact they are cost-plus contracts. We are going to do a thorough investigation through the subcommittee, and I am committing to the Senator that the things he is talking about right now will be fully investigated by our committee, and we are going to uphold our oversight responsibility of this administration.

We waited for something to happen, for some oversight to take place, and suddenly, when the issue is brought up on the campaign trail, Ensign's spokesman has this to say (from a Las Vegas Review-Journal article):

Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said Ensign held nine oversight hearings as chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on Readiness "with success."

Legislation changing defense acquisition procedures and attempting to improve evaluation of contract performance passed this year, Mazzola said.

Apparently, Ensign thinks that this issue has been taken care of.  He has declared "Mission Accomplished" and will now move on.

Local blogger Desert Beacon has done a great job of tracking down the real story.  She tried to find the nine meetings that were mentioned, and wrote a very impressive post in which she looks at every meeting for Ensign's subcommittee beginning in January, 2003, and finds only two which discussed contracts given for Iraq Reconstruction.  Here is her analysis:

Of the 18 public hearings listed below several pertained to general contracting and acquisition regulations, but it would be a real stretch to categorize these as "oversight" of Iraq operations and reconstruction contracts in any meaningful way. Eight of the public hearings delved into procurement and acquisition policies, but to characterize a general discussion of Department of Defense accounting practices as "oversight" of specific contracts awarded to specific corporations is essentially misleading. For all intents and purposes Ensign conducted only two meetings in which specific discussions of Iraq War contracts were a significant subject of attention, and as noted in a previous post, at one important hearing he was the only Republican present.

As for legislation that was passed "changing defense acquisition procedures and attempting to improve evaluation of contract performance," we're still holding out to see what legislation he's talking about.  It seems a little odd that the legislation only "attempts" to improve evaluation.

Ensign's idea of Congressional "oversight" is clearly lacking.  He admitted in November, 2005 that there was a problem, promised to hold hearings in December of that year, put off those meetings, made them a sham, and now says that he's seen "success" with his oversight.  What a joke!

Thanks for reading!  We could always use your donations!

You can always find more at the Carter Blog

Originally posted to Sarah R Carter on Sun Oct 08, 2006 at 09:33 AM PDT.

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