Sanders, Democrats question waste, fraud in Iraq

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(Host) Democrats and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders brought in whistle-blowers and defense experts today to share new chapters in an epic tale of waste, fraud and abuse by Iraq war contractors.

VPR’s Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports from Capitol Hill.

(Johnson) Members of a group known as the Democratic Policy Committee say American taxpayers are being fleeced.

(Sanders) Billions and billions of dollars are being wasted in the military. Money which is not getting to the needs of our troops. Money that is not getting to the needs of Americans in other areas of our life.

(Johnson) Sanders and a panel of Democrats invited two former contractors-turned-whistle-blowers to talk about what they’d seen in Iraq.

Barry Godfrey ran projects for Halliburton subsidiary K-B-R, which operates dining facilities for soldiers.

He painted a picture of an incompetent and corrupt system.

With managers who looked the other way, as subcontractors overcharged the government millions of dollars for meals that were never served and equipment that was never purchased.

(Godfrey) “I had repeatedly raised my concerns with my management through the vice-president level within KBR. I was continually harassed in return.”

(Johnson) The cost for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is fast approaching a trillion dollars.

Sanders and his fellow senators at this oversight hearing say defense spending isn’t getting as much scrutiny as domestic spending.

He used the opportunity to rail against Republican claims that the debate over war funding will cost civilian jobs or put soldiers in danger.

Sanders insists he supports the troops…

(Sanders) “But we also support our taxpayers. And we also want to make sure that when money is allocated it is spent appropriately and it gets to where it is supposed to go.”

(Johnson) The hearing did not include any Republicans or administration backers. A bill to provide 50-billion dollars in short-term funding for Iraq is mired in the Senate, in a mostly-partisan tug of war over timelines for troop withdrawal.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson on Capitol Hill.

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