IG Is Named To Scrutinize Afghan Efforts
Friday, May 30, 2008
The White House named a special inspector general to search for possible fraud and abuse in the funding of Afghanistan's reconstruction yesterday, three months after a congressional deadline for the appointment.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields was appointed to head the office, which is modeled on a similar congressionally mandated effort in Iraq. Although the war in Afghanistan is overshadowed by the larger and much more expensive U.S. effort in Iraq, reconstruction and development assistance there has totaled nearly $23 billion.
Establishment of the office was included in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill, approved in January, which directed the White House to fill the job within 30 days.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who sponsored the measure in the Senate, said yesterday that there is "too little oversight" of money spent in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Lautenberg and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) wrote President Bush to ask why the job had not been filled.
The Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development had opposed the measure last fall on the grounds that it would overlap with existing Defense and State department audit mechanisms.
Afghanistan has largely escaped the intense scrutiny Congress has given Iraq. Nevertheless, "a lot of the same problems exist, although not on the same scale," an administration official said. The official, who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly about the subject, said that corruption, bribery and extensive use of private security contractors are all areas of concern.
Fields has served since January 2007 as deputy director for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Earlier, he was chief of staff of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, which coordinated the expenditure of U.S. reconstruction funds in that country. At the time he retired from active duty, he was serving as deputy commander of U.S. Marine forces in Europe.
The legislation that established the special inspector general for Afghanistan appropriated $20 million for the office's activities during 2008 and said it should continue operating until less than $250,000 in Afghan reconstruction funds remained.