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CONTRACTING: Will Democrats' Oversight Live Up To Their Talk?

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Democrats have hammered Republicans in recent years over not providing what they considered to be aggressive oversight of contractors. Now Democrats get to show what they can do.

Contractors doing work in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the Gulf Coast could be on the hot seat, as likely incoming committee chairs have vowed to haul company executives before the cameras to answer questions. Halliburton Co. will probably be Exhibit A, but Democrats won't stop there. Several leading Democrats have called for a special investigative body, modeled after the Truman Committee of World War II, to look into charges of war profiteering. "With the exponential growth in contracting and tens of billions of dollars being spent, there needs to be very aggressive oversight so the Congress knows if the money's being spent wisely," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who is in line for chairmanship of the powerful Armed Services Committee, said yesterday that he would reestablish a subcommittee on oversight and investigations. For weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., the most significant threat is still undetermined. If Republicans retain control of the Senate, John McCain is expected to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee. The Arizona Republican is a longtime critic of the Pentagon's buying practices and has already been credited with squeezing contractors' profit margins.

-- Griff Witte and Renae Merle

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