Joint Contracting Command Helps Boost Iraq’s Economy
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2007 More Iraqi firms are obtaining more reconstruction contracts, which in turn creates more jobs and strengthens Iraq’s economy, a senior U.S. military officer said today.
Iraqi firms have now received more than $1 billion in reconstruction contracts, Navy Capt. Robert J. Gilbeau, deputy commander and chief of staff for Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan, told stateside-based online journalists and “bloggers.”
“That’s a real milestone for the Iraqi economy and for the Iraqi people, as it employs a good number of local nationals,” Gilbeau pointed out.
The availability of jobs provides Iraq’s young people with hope for a better future, he said, thus keeping them out of insurgents’ clutches.
JCC I/A, a major subordinate command of Multinational Force Iraq, also manages contracting operations in Afghanistan, Gilbeau said. The command has 157 contracting officers at more than 18 locations throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Last year, the command awarded more than $6.5 billion in overall contracts, Gilbeau said. Nearly $2.5 billion worth of contracts have been awarded so far this fiscal year.
The command’s Iraqi First Program seeks to develop economic expansion and create entrepreneurship to better the lives of Iraq’s people, Gilbeau explained, noting that a similar program exists in Afghanistan.
“Our efforts under this program were to remove barriers that prevented Iraqi-owned businesses from competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world’s businesses,” Gilbeau explained.
As more Iraqi firms obtain reconstruction-related contract work, more Iraqis are gaining employment, Gilbeau observed. This produces “a trickle-down effect” across Iraq’s free-market economy, he said.
Iraqi contractors are doing everything from providing pens and pencils to furnishing cement barrier walls used in security zones, the captain said.
The increased prevalence of Iraqi contractors represents a shift in thinking, Gilbeau said, compared to the past when most of goods and services were procured from non-Iraqi firms and vendors.
Gilbeau recalled the success of an Iraqi expatriate who returned to his native land in 2003 to start a business with about $3,000 in initial capital. Today, that company employs thousands of Iraqis and does more than $300 million in contracted business to supply building material to U.S. bases, Gilbeau said.
Today, more than 50 percent of contract dollars go to Iraqi and Afghan firms doing business in their respective countries, Gilbeau noted.
JCC I/A follows federal and defense department contracting compliance and oversight regulations, Gilbeau said.
“We safeguard against corruption, and we execute prudent stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollar, because we think it’s paramount that we continue to keep the confidence of those we support here on the battlefield, as well as back home,” he said.