Report Blasts Plan for Private Security in Iraq

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The State Department's plan to use private contractors in Iraq after after the troops withdraw next year is "not adequate," according to a report issued Monday by an independent, bipartisan commission. "There is a longstanding lack of effective planning at all levels," said Michael Thibault, co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.
     Commissioners warned that the plan to hand over the U.S. military's role in Iraq to the State Department is rife with problems.
     "We've got to do it faster," commissioner Grant Green said of the military-to-State Department transition.
     Troops are set to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. The State Department will then step in and take over operations.
     "The decline will not be steady or proportional," Thibault said, adding that the State Department would not necessarily be able to rely on support from the Iraqi government. "The only option is heavier use of contractors."
     The Defense Department and the State Department listed more than 1,000 tasks and functions that State will need to fulfill after the troops leave, some of which include military areas of expertise, such as recovering killed and wounded personnel, providing convoy security and clearing travel routes.
     "Do you feel you have enough resources?" Thibault asked Lt. Gen. Kathleen Gainey, logistics adviser on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Monday's hearing.
     "For the plans for what we are developing today, I think we are aligned with the capabilities we need," Gainey replied.
     Thibault asked the same question of Gary Motsek, the assistant deputy under-secretary of defense.
     "Generally speaking, yes," Motsek said.
     Commissioners appeared doubtful that the State Department was ready to handle billions of dollars in new contracts.
     Thibault said senior State Department leadership told him last week that they are "in a quandry" with the troop withdrawal because they do not have the infrastructure or staff to award and manage contracts. They said they requested advice from the Defense Department in April, but have not yet heard back.
     "What the heck has taken so long?" Thibault asked the panel. Gainey promised to answer the State Department's concerns by Friday.
     In the report issued Monday, the commission recommended that the Defense and State departments step up their planning efforts and better coordinate with each other as well as the Iraqi government. The commission also asked Congress to direct more resources to the State Department to pay additional contractors.
     The report quoted an April 7 letter from Ambassador Patrick Kennedy stating that after U.S. troops leave, the State Department will need support "of a magnitude and scale of complexity that is unprecedented in the history of the Department of State."
     "As a result, the security of [State] personnel in Iraq will be degraded significantly and we can expect increased casualties," Kennedy wrote.
     Planning for the Defense-to-State transition "needs major acceleration and improvement as the military drawdown proceeds," Thibault said.
     The commission, which was formed by Congress in 2008, will submit its final report in 2011.
     (For CNS' previous coverage of the commission hearings, see "Lawmakers Doubt Safety of Private Security in Iraq" and "Commission Unhappy With response to Contract Fraud.")